{tocify}

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


CHAPTER XXI. IN WHICH THE OLD MAN LAUNCHES FORTH INTO HIS FAVOURITE THEME, AND RELATES A STORY ABOUT A QUEER CLIENT

’ Aha!’ said the old man, a brief description of whose manner and appearance concluded the last chapter, ‘aha! who was talking about the inns?’

‘I was, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick—‘I was observing what singular old places they are.’

‘You!’ said the old man contemptuously. ‘What do you know of the time when young men shut themselves up in those lonely rooms, and read and read, hour after hour, and night after night, till their reason wandered beneath their midnight studies; till their mental powers were exhausted; till morning’s light brought no freshness or health to them; and they sank beneath the unnatural devotion of their youthful energies to their dry old books? Coming down to a later time, and a very different day, what do you know of the gradual sinking beneath consumption, or the quick wasting of fever—the grand results of “life” and dissipation—which men have undergone in these same rooms? How many vain pleaders for mercy, do you think, have turned away heart-sick from the lawyer’s office, to find a resting-place in the Thames, or a refuge in the jail? They are no ordinary houses, those. There is not a panel in the old wainscotting, but what, if it were endowed with the powers of speech and memory, could start from the wall, and tell its tale of horror—the romance of life, Sir, the romance of life! Common-place as they may seem now, I tell you they are strange old places, and I would rather hear many a legend with a terrific-sounding name, than the true history of one old set of chambers.’

There was something so odd in the old man’s sudden energy, and the subject which had called it forth, that Mr. Pickwick was prepared with no observation in reply; and the old man checking his impetuosity, and resuming the leer, which had disappeared during his previous excitement, said—

‘Look at them in another light—their most common-place and least romantic. What fine places of slow torture they are! Think of the needy man who has spent his all, beggared himself, and pinched his friends, to enter the profession, which is destined never to yield him a morsel of bread. The waiting—the hope—the disappointment—the fear—the misery—the poverty—the blight on his hopes, and end to his career—the suicide perhaps, or the shabby, slipshod drunkard. Am I not right about them?’ And the old man rubbed his hands, and leered as if in delight at having found another point of view in which to place his favourite subject.

Mr. Pickwick eyed the old man with great curiosity, and the remainder of the company smiled, and looked on in silence.

‘Talk of your German universities,’ said the little old man. ‘Pooh, pooh! there’s romance enough at home without going half a mile for it; only people never think of it.’

‘I never thought of the romance of this particular subject before, certainly,’ said Mr. Pickwick, laughing.

‘To be sure you didn’t,’ said the little old man; ‘of course not. As a friend of mine used to say to me, “What is there in chambers in particular?” “Queer old places,” said I. “Not at all,” said he. “Lonely,” said I. “Not a bit of it,” said he. He died one morning of apoplexy, as he was going to open his outer door. Fell with his head in his own letter-box, and there he lay for eighteen months. Everybody thought he’d gone out of town.’

‘And how was he found out at last?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘The benchers determined to have his door broken open, as he hadn’t paid any rent for two years. So they did. Forced the lock; and a very dusty skeleton in a blue coat, black knee-shorts, and silks, fell forward in the arms of the porter who opened the door. Queer, that. Rather, perhaps; rather, eh?’ The little old man put his head more on one side, and rubbed his hands with unspeakable glee.

‘I know another case,’ said the little old man, when his chuckles had in some degree subsided. ‘It occurred in Clifford’s Inn. Tenant of a top set—bad character—shut himself up in his bedroom closet, and took a dose of arsenic. The steward thought he had run away: opened the door, and put a bill up. Another man came, took the chambers, furnished them, and went to live there. Somehow or other he couldn’t sleep—always restless and uncomfortable. “Odd,” says he. “I’ll make the other room my bedchamber, and this my sitting-room.” He made the change, and slept very well at night, but suddenly found that, somehow, he couldn’t read in the evening: he got nervous and uncomfortable, and used to be always snuffing his candles and staring about him. “I can’t make this out,” said he, when he came home from the play one night, and was drinking a glass of cold grog, with his back to the wall, in order that he mightn’t be able to fancy there was any one behind him—“I can’t make it out,” said he; and just then his eyes rested on the little closet that had been always locked up, and a shudder ran through his whole frame from top to toe. “I have felt this strange feeling before,” said he, “I cannot help thinking there’s something wrong about that closet.” He made a strong effort, plucked up his courage, shivered the lock with a blow or two of the poker, opened the door, and there, sure enough, standing bolt upright in the corner, was the last tenant, with a little bottle clasped firmly in his hand, and his face—well!’ As the little old man concluded, he looked round on the attentive faces of his wondering auditory with a smile of grim delight.

‘What strange things these are you tell us of, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, minutely scanning the old man’s countenance, by the aid of his glasses.

‘Strange!’ said the little old man. ‘Nonsense; you think them strange, because you know nothing about it. They are funny, but not uncommon.’

‘Funny!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick involuntarily.

‘Yes, funny, are they not?’ replied the little old man, with a diabolical leer; and then, without pausing for an answer, he continued—

‘I knew another man—let me see—forty years ago now—who took an old, damp, rotten set of chambers, in one of the most ancient inns, that had been shut up and empty for years and years before. There were lots of old women’s stories about the place, and it certainly was very far from being a cheerful one; but he was poor, and the rooms were cheap, and that would have been quite a sufficient reason for him, if they had been ten times worse than they really were. He was obliged to take some mouldering fixtures that were on the place, and, among the rest, was a great lumbering wooden press for papers, with large glass doors, and a green curtain inside; a pretty useless thing for him, for he had no papers to put in it; and as to his clothes, he carried them about with him, and that wasn’t very hard work, either. Well, he had moved in all his furniture—it wasn’t quite a truck-full—and had sprinkled it about the room, so as to make the four chairs look as much like a dozen as possible, and was sitting down before the fire at night, drinking the first glass of two gallons of whisky he had ordered on credit, wondering whether it would ever be paid for, and if so, in how many years’ time, when his eyes encountered the glass doors of the wooden press. “Ah,” says he, “if I hadn’t been obliged to take that ugly article at the old broker’s valuation, I might have got something comfortable for the money. I’ll tell you what it is, old fellow,” he said, speaking aloud to the press, having nothing else to speak to, “if it wouldn’t cost more to break up your old carcass, than it would ever be worth afterward, I’d have a fire out of you in less than no time.” He had hardly spoken the words, when a sound resembling a faint groan, appeared to issue from the interior of the case. It startled him at first, but thinking, on a moment’s reflection, that it must be some young fellow in the next chamber, who had been dining out, he put his feet on the fender, and raised the poker to stir the fire. At that moment, the sound was repeated; and one of the glass doors slowly opening, disclosed a pale and emaciated figure in soiled and worn apparel, standing erect in the press. The figure was tall and thin, and the countenance expressive of care and anxiety; but there was something in the hue of the skin, and gaunt and unearthly appearance of the whole form, which no being of this world was ever seen to wear. “Who are you?” said the new tenant, turning very pale; poising the poker in his hand, however, and taking a very decent aim at the countenance of the figure. “Who are you?” “Don’t throw that poker at me,” replied the form; “if you hurled it with ever so sure an aim, it would pass through me, without resistance, and expend its force on the wood behind. I am a spirit.” “And pray, what do you want here?” faltered the tenant. “In this room,” replied the apparition, “my worldly ruin was worked, and I and my children beggared. In this press, the papers in a long, long suit, which accumulated for years, were deposited. In this room, when I had died of grief, and long-deferred hope, two wily harpies divided the wealth for which I had contested during a wretched existence, and of which, at last, not one farthing was left for my unhappy descendants. I terrified them from the spot, and since that day have prowled by night—the only period at which I can revisit the earth—about the scenes of my long-protracted misery. This apartment is mine: leave it to me.” “If you insist upon making your appearance here,” said the tenant, who had had time to collect his presence of mind during this prosy statement of the ghost’s, “I shall give up possession with the greatest pleasure; but I should like to ask you one question, if you will allow me.” “Say on,” said the apparition sternly. “Well,” said the tenant, “I don’t apply the observation personally to you, because it is equally applicable to most of the ghosts I ever heard of; but it does appear to me somewhat inconsistent, that when you have an opportunity of visiting the fairest spots of earth—for I suppose space is nothing to you—you should always return exactly to the very places where you have been most miserable.” “Egad, that’s very true; I never thought of that before,” said the ghost. “You see, Sir,” pursued the tenant, “this is a very uncomfortable room. From the appearance of that press, I should be disposed to say that it is not wholly free from bugs; and I really think you might find much more comfortable quarters: to say nothing of the climate of London, which is extremely disagreeable.” “You are very right, Sir,” said the ghost politely, “it never struck me till now; I’ll try change of air directly”—and, in fact, he began to vanish as he spoke; his legs, indeed, had quite disappeared. “And if, Sir,” said the tenant, calling after him, “if you would have the goodness to suggest to the other ladies and gentlemen who are now engaged in haunting old empty houses, that they might be much more comfortable elsewhere, you will confer a very great benefit on society.” “I will,” replied the ghost; “we must be dull fellows—very dull fellows, indeed; I can’t imagine how we can have been so stupid.” With these words, the spirit disappeared; and what is rather remarkable,’ added the old man, with a shrewd look round the table, ‘he never came back again.’

‘That ain’t bad, if it’s true,’ said the man in the Mosaic studs, lighting a fresh cigar.

‘If!’ exclaimed the old man, with a look of excessive contempt. ‘I suppose,’ he added, turning to Lowten, ‘he’ll say next, that my story about the queer client we had, when I was in an attorney’s office, is not true either—I shouldn’t wonder.’

‘I shan’t venture to say anything at all about it, seeing that I never heard the story,’ observed the owner of the Mosaic decorations.

‘I wish you would repeat it, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ah, do,’ said Lowten, ‘nobody has heard it but me, and I have nearly forgotten it.’

The old man looked round the table, and leered more horribly than ever, as if in triumph, at the attention which was depicted in every face. Then rubbing his chin with his hand, and looking up to the ceiling as if to recall the circumstances to his memory, he began as follows:—

  THE OLD MAN’S TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT

‘It matters little,’ said the old man, ‘where, or how, I picked up this brief history. If I were to relate it in the order in which it reached me, I should commence in the middle, and when I had arrived at the conclusion, go back for a beginning. It is enough for me to say that some of its circumstances passed before my own eyes; for the remainder I know them to have happened, and there are some persons yet living, who will remember them but too well.

‘In the Borough High Street, near St. George’s Church, and on the same side of the way, stands, as most people know, the smallest of our debtors’ prisons, the Marshalsea. Although in later times it has been a very different place from the sink of filth and dirt it once was, even its improved condition holds out but little temptation to the extravagant, or consolation to the improvident. The condemned felon has as good a yard for air and exercise in Newgate, as the insolvent debtor in the Marshalsea Prison. [Better. But this is past, in a better age, and the prison exists no longer.]

‘It may be my fancy, or it may be that I cannot separate the place from the old recollections associated with it, but this part of London I cannot bear. The street is broad, the shops are spacious, the noise of passing vehicles, the footsteps of a perpetual stream of people—all the busy sounds of traffic, resound in it from morn to midnight; but the streets around are mean and close; poverty and debauchery lie festering in the crowded alleys; want and misfortune are pent up in the narrow prison; an air of gloom and dreariness seems, in my eyes at least, to hang about the scene, and to impart to it a squalid and sickly hue.

‘Many eyes, that have long since been closed in the grave, have looked round upon that scene lightly enough, when entering the gate of the old Marshalsea Prison for the first time; for despair seldom comes with the first severe shock of misfortune. A man has confidence in untried friends, he remembers the many offers of service so freely made by his boon companions when he wanted them not; he has hope—the hope of happy inexperience—and however he may bend beneath the first shock, it springs up in his bosom, and flourishes there for a brief space, until it droops beneath the blight of disappointment and neglect. How soon have those same eyes, deeply sunken in the head, glared from faces wasted with famine, and sallow from confinement, in days when it was no figure of speech to say that debtors rotted in prison, with no hope of release, and no prospect of liberty! The atrocity in its full extent no longer exists, but there is enough of it left to give rise to occurrences that make the heart bleed.

‘Twenty years ago, that pavement was worn with the footsteps of a mother and child, who, day by day, so surely as the morning came, presented themselves at the prison gate; often after a night of restless misery and anxious thoughts, were they there, a full hour too soon, and then the young mother turning meekly away, would lead the child to the old bridge, and raising him in her arms to show him the glistening water, tinted with the light of the morning’s sun, and stirring with all the bustling preparations for business and pleasure that the river presented at that early hour, endeavour to interest his thoughts in the objects before him. But she would quickly set him down, and hiding her face in her shawl, give vent to the tears that blinded her; for no expression of interest or amusement lighted up his thin and sickly face. His recollections were few enough, but they were all of one kind—all connected with the poverty and misery of his parents. Hour after hour had he sat on his mother’s knee, and with childish sympathy watched the tears that stole down her face, and then crept quietly away into some dark corner, and sobbed himself to sleep. The hard realities of the world, with many of its worst privations—hunger and thirst, and cold and want—had all come home to him, from the first dawnings of reason; and though the form of childhood was there, its light heart, its merry laugh, and sparkling eyes were wanting.

‘The father and mother looked on upon this, and upon each other, with thoughts of agony they dared not breathe in words. The healthy, strong-made man, who could have borne almost any fatigue of active exertion, was wasting beneath the close confinement and unhealthy atmosphere of a crowded prison. The slight and delicate woman was sinking beneath the combined effects of bodily and mental illness. The child’s young heart was breaking.

‘Winter came, and with it weeks of cold and heavy rain. The poor girl had removed to a wretched apartment close to the spot of her husband’s imprisonment; and though the change had been rendered necessary by their increasing poverty, she was happier now, for she was nearer him. For two months, she and her little companion watched the opening of the gate as usual. One day she failed to come, for the first time. Another morning arrived, and she came alone. The child was dead.

‘They little know, who coldly talk of the poor man’s bereavements, as a happy release from pain to the departed, and a merciful relief from expense to the survivor—they little know, I say, what the agony of those bereavements is. A silent look of affection and regard when all other eyes are turned coldly away—the consciousness that we possess the sympathy and affection of one being when all others have deserted us—is a hold, a stay, a comfort, in the deepest affliction, which no wealth could purchase, or power bestow. The child had sat at his parents’ feet for hours together, with his little hands patiently folded in each other, and his thin wan face raised towards them. They had seen him pine away, from day to day; and though his brief existence had been a joyless one, and he was now removed to that peace and rest which, child as he was, he had never known in this world, they were his parents, and his loss sank deep into their souls.

‘It was plain to those who looked upon the mother’s altered face, that death must soon close the scene of her adversity and trial. Her husband’s fellow-prisoners shrank from obtruding on his grief and misery, and left to himself alone, the small room he had previously occupied in common with two companions. She shared it with him; and lingering on without pain, but without hope, her life ebbed slowly away.

‘She had fainted one evening in her husband’s arms, and he had borne her to the open window, to revive her with the air, when the light of the moon falling full upon her face, showed him a change upon her features, which made him stagger beneath her weight, like a helpless infant.

‘“Set me down, George,” she said faintly. He did so, and seating himself beside her, covered his face with his hands, and burst into tears.

‘“It is very hard to leave you, George,” she said; “but it is God’s will, and you must bear it for my sake. Oh! how I thank Him for having taken our boy! He is happy, and in heaven now. What would he have done here, without his mother!”

‘“You shall not die, Mary, you shall not die;” said the husband, starting up. He paced hurriedly to and fro, striking his head with his clenched fists; then reseating himself beside her, and supporting her in his arms, added more calmly, “Rouse yourself, my dear girl. Pray, pray do. You will revive yet.”

‘“Never again, George; never again,” said the dying woman. “Let them lay me by my poor boy now, but promise me, that if ever you leave this dreadful place, and should grow rich, you will have us removed to some quiet country churchyard, a long, long way off—very far from here—where we can rest in peace. Dear George, promise me you will.”

‘“I do, I do,” said the man, throwing himself passionately on his knees before her. “Speak to me, Mary, another word; one look—but one!”

‘He ceased to speak: for the arm that clasped his neck grew stiff and heavy. A deep sigh escaped from the wasted form before him; the lips moved, and a smile played upon the face; but the lips were pallid, and the smile faded into a rigid and ghastly stare. He was alone in the world.

‘That night, in the silence and desolation of his miserable room, the wretched man knelt down by the dead body of his wife, and called on God to witness a terrible oath, that from that hour, he devoted himself to revenge her death and that of his child; that thenceforth to the last moment of his life, his whole energies should be directed to this one object; that his revenge should be protracted and terrible; that his hatred should be undying and inextinguishable; and should hunt its object through the world.

‘The deepest despair, and passion scarcely human, had made such fierce ravages on his face and form, in that one night, that his companions in misfortune shrank affrighted from him as he passed by. His eyes were bloodshot and heavy, his face a deadly white, and his body bent as if with age. He had bitten his under lip nearly through in the violence of his mental suffering, and the blood which had flowed from the wound had trickled down his chin, and stained his shirt and neckerchief. No tear, or sound of complaint escaped him; but the unsettled look, and disordered haste with which he paced up and down the yard, denoted the fever which was burning within.

‘It was necessary that his wife’s body should be removed from the prison, without delay. He received the communication with perfect calmness, and acquiesced in its propriety. Nearly all the inmates of the prison had assembled to witness its removal; they fell back on either side when the widower appeared; he walked hurriedly forward, and stationed himself, alone, in a little railed area close to the lodge gate, from whence the crowd, with an instinctive feeling of delicacy, had retired. The rude coffin was borne slowly forward on men’s shoulders. A dead silence pervaded the throng, broken only by the audible lamentations of the women, and the shuffling steps of the bearers on the stone pavement. They reached the spot where the bereaved husband stood: and stopped. He laid his hand upon the coffin, and mechanically adjusting the pall with which it was covered, motioned them onward. The turnkeys in the prison lobby took off their hats as it passed through, and in another moment the heavy gate closed behind it. He looked vacantly upon the crowd, and fell heavily to the ground.

‘Although for many weeks after this, he was watched, night and day, in the wildest ravings of fever, neither the consciousness of his loss, nor the recollection of the vow he had made, ever left him for a moment. Scenes changed before his eyes, place succeeded place, and event followed event, in all the hurry of delirium; but they were all connected in some way with the great object of his mind. He was sailing over a boundless expanse of sea, with a blood-red sky above, and the angry waters, lashed into fury beneath, boiling and eddying up, on every side. There was another vessel before them, toiling and labouring in the howling storm; her canvas fluttering in ribbons from the mast, and her deck thronged with figures who were lashed to the sides, over which huge waves every instant burst, sweeping away some devoted creatures into the foaming sea. Onward they bore, amidst the roaring mass of water, with a speed and force which nothing could resist; and striking the stem of the foremost vessel, crushed her beneath their keel. From the huge whirlpool which the sinking wreck occasioned, arose a shriek so loud and shrill—the death-cry of a hundred drowning creatures, blended into one fierce yell—that it rung far above the war-cry of the elements, and echoed, and re-echoed till it seemed to pierce air, sky, and ocean. But what was that—that old gray head that rose above the water’s surface, and with looks of agony, and screams for aid, buffeted with the waves! One look, and he had sprung from the vessel’s side, and with vigorous strokes was swimming towards it. He reached it; he was close upon it. They were his features. The old man saw him coming, and vainly strove to elude his grasp. But he clasped him tight, and dragged him beneath the water. Down, down with him, fifty fathoms down; his struggles grew fainter and fainter, until they wholly ceased. He was dead; he had killed him, and had kept his oath.

‘He was traversing the scorching sands of a mighty desert, barefoot and alone. The sand choked and blinded him; its fine thin grains entered the very pores of his skin, and irritated him almost to madness. Gigantic masses of the same material, carried forward by the wind, and shone through by the burning sun, stalked in the distance like pillars of living fire. The bones of men, who had perished in the dreary waste, lay scattered at his feet; a fearful light fell on everything around; so far as the eye could reach, nothing but objects of dread and horror presented themselves. Vainly striving to utter a cry of terror, with his tongue cleaving to his mouth, he rushed madly forward. Armed with supernatural strength, he waded through the sand, until, exhausted with fatigue and thirst, he fell senseless on the earth. What fragrant coolness revived him; what gushing sound was that? Water! It was indeed a well; and the clear fresh stream was running at his feet. He drank deeply of it, and throwing his aching limbs upon the bank, sank into a delicious trance. The sound of approaching footsteps roused him. An old gray-headed man tottered forward to slake his burning thirst. It was he again! He wound his arms round the old man’s body, and held him back. He struggled, and shrieked for water—for but one drop of water to save his life! But he held the old man firmly, and watched his agonies with greedy eyes; and when his lifeless head fell forward on his bosom, he rolled the corpse from him with his feet.

‘When the fever left him, and consciousness returned, he awoke to find himself rich and free, to hear that the parent who would have let him die in jail—would! who had let those who were far dearer to him than his own existence die of want, and sickness of heart that medicine cannot cure—had been found dead in his bed of down. He had had all the heart to leave his son a beggar, but proud even of his health and strength, had put off the act till it was too late, and now might gnash his teeth in the other world, at the thought of the wealth his remissness had left him. He awoke to this, and he awoke to more. To recollect the purpose for which he lived, and to remember that his enemy was his wife’s own father—the man who had cast him into prison, and who, when his daughter and her child sued at his feet for mercy, had spurned them from his door. Oh, how he cursed the weakness that prevented him from being up, and active, in his scheme of vengeance!

‘He caused himself to be carried from the scene of his loss and misery, and conveyed to a quiet residence on the sea-coast; not in the hope of recovering his peace of mind or happiness, for both were fled for ever; but to restore his prostrate energies, and meditate on his darling object. And here, some evil spirit cast in his way the opportunity for his first, most horrible revenge.

‘It was summer-time; and wrapped in his gloomy thoughts, he would issue from his solitary lodgings early in the evening, and wandering along a narrow path beneath the cliffs, to a wild and lonely spot that had struck his fancy in his ramblings, seat himself on some fallen fragment of the rock, and burying his face in his hands, remain there for hours—sometimes until night had completely closed in, and the long shadows of the frowning cliffs above his head cast a thick, black darkness on every object near him.

‘He was seated here, one calm evening, in his old position, now and then raising his head to watch the flight of a sea-gull, or carry his eye along the glorious crimson path, which, commencing in the middle of the ocean, seemed to lead to its very verge where the sun was setting, when the profound stillness of the spot was broken by a loud cry for help; he listened, doubtful of his having heard aright, when the cry was repeated with even greater vehemence than before, and, starting to his feet, he hastened in the direction whence it proceeded.

‘The tale told itself at once: some scattered garments lay on the beach; a human head was just visible above the waves at a little distance from the shore; and an old man, wringing his hands in agony, was running to and fro, shrieking for assistance. The invalid, whose strength was now sufficiently restored, threw off his coat, and rushed towards the sea, with the intention of plunging in, and dragging the drowning man ashore.

‘“Hasten here, Sir, in God’s name; help, help, sir, for the love of Heaven. He is my son, Sir, my only son!” said the old man frantically, as he advanced to meet him. “My only son, Sir, and he is dying before his father’s eyes!”

‘At the first word the old man uttered, the stranger checked himself in his career, and, folding his arms, stood perfectly motionless.

‘“Great God!” exclaimed the old man, recoiling, “Heyling!”

‘The stranger smiled, and was silent.

‘“Heyling!” said the old man wildly; “my boy, Heyling, my dear boy, look, look!” Gasping for breath, the miserable father pointed to the spot where the young man was struggling for life.

‘“Hark!” said the old man. “He cries once more. He is alive yet. Heyling, save him, save him!”

‘The stranger smiled again, and remained immovable as a statue.

‘“I have wronged you,” shrieked the old man, falling on his knees, and clasping his hands together. “Be revenged; take my all, my life; cast me into the water at your feet, and, if human nature can repress a struggle, I will die, without stirring hand or foot. Do it, Heyling, do it, but save my boy; he is so young, Heyling, so young to die!”

‘“Listen,” said the stranger, grasping the old man fiercely by the wrist; “I will have life for life, and here is one. My child died, before his father’s eyes, a far more agonising and painful death than that young slanderer of his sister’s worth is meeting while I speak. You laughed—laughed in your daughter’s face, where death had already set his hand—at our sufferings, then. What think you of them now! See there, see there!”

‘As the stranger spoke, he pointed to the sea. A faint cry died away upon its surface; the last powerful struggle of the dying man agitated the rippling waves for a few seconds; and the spot where he had gone down into his early grave, was undistinguishable from the surrounding water.

‘Three years had elapsed, when a gentleman alighted from a private carriage at the door of a London attorney, then well known as a man of no great nicety in his professional dealings, and requested a private interview on business of importance. Although evidently not past the prime of life, his face was pale, haggard, and dejected; and it did not require the acute perception of the man of business, to discern at a glance, that disease or suffering had done more to work a change in his appearance, than the mere hand of time could have accomplished in twice the period of his whole life.

‘“I wish you to undertake some legal business for me,” said the stranger.

‘The attorney bowed obsequiously, and glanced at a large packet which the gentleman carried in his hand. His visitor observed the look, and proceeded.

‘“It is no common business,” said he; “nor have these papers reached my hands without long trouble and great expense.”

‘The attorney cast a still more anxious look at the packet; and his visitor, untying the string that bound it, disclosed a quantity of promissory notes, with copies of deeds, and other documents.

‘“Upon these papers,” said the client, “the man whose name they bear, has raised, as you will see, large sums of money, for years past. There was a tacit understanding between him and the men into whose hands they originally went—and from whom I have by degrees purchased the whole, for treble and quadruple their nominal value—that these loans should be from time to time renewed, until a given period had elapsed. Such an understanding is nowhere expressed. He has sustained many losses of late; and these obligations accumulating upon him at once, would crush him to the earth.”

‘“The whole amount is many thousands of pounds,” said the attorney, looking over the papers.

‘“It is,” said the client.

‘“What are we to do?” inquired the man of business.

‘“Do!” replied the client, with sudden vehemence. “Put every engine of the law in force, every trick that ingenuity can devise and rascality execute; fair means and foul; the open oppression of the law, aided by all the craft of its most ingenious practitioners. I would have him die a harassing and lingering death. Ruin him, seize and sell his lands and goods, drive him from house and home, and drag him forth a beggar in his old age, to die in a common jail.”

‘“But the costs, my dear Sir, the costs of all this,” reasoned the attorney, when he had recovered from his momentary surprise. “If the defendant be a man of straw, who is to pay the costs, Sir?”

‘“Name any sum,” said the stranger, his hand trembling so violently with excitement, that he could scarcely hold the pen he seized as he spoke—“any sum, and it is yours. Don’t be afraid to name it, man. I shall not think it dear, if you gain my object.”

‘The attorney named a large sum, at hazard, as the advance he should require to secure himself against the possibility of loss; but more with the view of ascertaining how far his client was really disposed to go, than with any idea that he would comply with the demand. The stranger wrote a cheque upon his banker, for the whole amount, and left him.

‘The draft was duly honoured, and the attorney, finding that his strange client might be safely relied upon, commenced his work in earnest. For more than two years afterwards, Mr. Heyling would sit whole days together, in the office, poring over the papers as they accumulated, and reading again and again, his eyes gleaming with joy, the letters of remonstrance, the prayers for a little delay, the representations of the certain ruin in which the opposite party must be involved, which poured in, as suit after suit, and process after process, was commenced. To all applications for a brief indulgence, there was but one reply—the money must be paid. Land, house, furniture, each in its turn, was taken under some one of the numerous executions which were issued; and the old man himself would have been immured in prison had he not escaped the vigilance of the officers, and fled.

‘The implacable animosity of Heyling, so far from being satiated by the success of his persecution, increased a hundredfold with the ruin he inflicted. On being informed of the old man’s flight, his fury was unbounded. He gnashed his teeth with rage, tore the hair from his head, and assailed with horrid imprecations the men who had been intrusted with the writ. He was only restored to comparative calmness by repeated assurances of the certainty of discovering the fugitive. Agents were sent in quest of him, in all directions; every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to, for the purpose of discovering his place of retreat; but it was all in vain. Half a year had passed over, and he was still undiscovered.

‘At length late one night, Heyling, of whom nothing had been seen for many weeks before, appeared at his attorney’s private residence, and sent up word that a gentleman wished to see him instantly. Before the attorney, who had recognised his voice from above stairs, could order the servant to admit him, he had rushed up the staircase, and entered the drawing-room pale and breathless. Having closed the door, to prevent being overheard, he sank into a chair, and said, in a low voice—

‘“Hush! I have found him at last.”

‘“No!” said the attorney. “Well done, my dear sir, well done.”

‘“He lies concealed in a wretched lodging in Camden Town,” said Heyling. “Perhaps it is as well we did lose sight of him, for he has been living alone there, in the most abject misery, all the time, and he is poor—very poor.”

‘“Very good,” said the attorney. “You will have the caption made to-morrow, of course?”

‘“Yes,” replied Heyling. “Stay! No! The next day. You are surprised at my wishing to postpone it,” he added, with a ghastly smile; “but I had forgotten. The next day is an anniversary in his life: let it be done then.”

‘“Very good,” said the attorney. “Will you write down instructions for the officer?”

‘“No; let him meet me here, at eight in the evening, and I will accompany him myself.”

‘They met on the appointed night, and, hiring a hackney-coach, directed the driver to stop at that corner of the old Pancras Road, at which stands the parish workhouse. By the time they alighted there, it was quite dark; and, proceeding by the dead wall in front of the Veterinary Hospital, they entered a small by-street, which is, or was at that time, called Little College Street, and which, whatever it may be now, was in those days a desolate place enough, surrounded by little else than fields and ditches.

‘Having drawn the travelling-cap he had on half over his face, and muffled himself in his cloak, Heyling stopped before the meanest-looking house in the street, and knocked gently at the door. It was at once opened by a woman, who dropped a curtsey of recognition, and Heyling, whispering the officer to remain below, crept gently upstairs, and, opening the door of the front room, entered at once.

‘The object of his search and his unrelenting animosity, now a decrepit old man, was seated at a bare deal table, on which stood a miserable candle. He started on the entrance of the stranger, and rose feebly to his feet.

‘“What now, what now?” said the old man. “What fresh misery is this? What do you want here?”

‘“A word with you,” replied Heyling. As he spoke, he seated himself at the other end of the table, and, throwing off his cloak and cap, disclosed his features.

‘The old man seemed instantly deprived of speech. He fell backward in his chair, and, clasping his hands together, gazed on the apparition with a mingled look of abhorrence and fear.

‘“This day six years,” said Heyling, “I claimed the life you owed me for my child’s. Beside the lifeless form of your daughter, old man, I swore to live a life of revenge. I have never swerved from my purpose for a moment’s space; but if I had, one thought of her uncomplaining, suffering look, as she drooped away, or of the starving face of our innocent child, would have nerved me to my task. My first act of requital you well remember: this is my last.”

‘The old man shivered, and his hands dropped powerless by his side.

‘“I leave England to-morrow,” said Heyling, after a moment’s pause. “To-night I consign you to the living death to which you devoted her—a hopeless prison—”

‘He raised his eyes to the old man’s countenance, and paused. He lifted the light to his face, set it gently down, and left the apartment.

‘“You had better see to the old man,” he said to the woman, as he opened the door, and motioned the officer to follow him into the street. “I think he is ill.” The woman closed the door, ran hastily upstairs, and found him lifeless.

‘Beneath a plain gravestone, in one of the most peaceful and secluded churchyards in Kent, where wild flowers mingle with the grass, and the soft landscape around forms the fairest spot in the garden of England, lie the bones of the young mother and her gentle child. But the ashes of the father do not mingle with theirs; nor, from that night forward, did the attorney ever gain the remotest clue to the subsequent history of his queer client.’


As the old man concluded his tale, he advanced to a peg in one corner, and taking down his hat and coat, put them on with great deliberation; and, without saying another word, walked slowly away. As the gentleman with the Mosaic studs had fallen asleep, and the major part of the company were deeply occupied in the humorous process of dropping melted tallow-grease into his brandy-and-water, Mr. Pickwick departed unnoticed, and having settled his own score, and that of Mr. Weller, issued forth, in company with that gentleman, from beneath the portal of the Magpie and Stump.






CHAPTER XXII. MR. PICKWICK JOURNEYS TO IPSWICH AND MEETS WITH A ROMANTIC ADVENTURE WITH A MIDDLE-AGED LADY IN YELLOW CURL-PAPERS

That ‘ere your governor’s luggage, Sammy?’ inquired Mr. Weller of his affectionate son, as he entered the yard of the Bull Inn, Whitechapel, with a travelling-bag and a small portmanteau.

‘You might ha’ made a worser guess than that, old feller,’ replied Mr. Weller the younger, setting down his burden in the yard, and sitting himself down upon it afterwards. ‘The governor hisself’ll be down here presently.’

‘He’s a-cabbin’ it, I suppose?’ said the father.

‘Yes, he’s a havin’ two mile o’ danger at eight-pence,’ responded the son. ‘How’s mother-in-law this mornin’?’

‘Queer, Sammy, queer,’ replied the elder Mr. Weller, with impressive gravity. ‘She’s been gettin’ rayther in the Methodistical order lately, Sammy; and she is uncommon pious, to be sure. She’s too good a creetur for me, Sammy. I feel I don’t deserve her.’

‘Ah,’ said Mr. Samuel. ‘that’s wery self-denyin’ o’ you.’

‘Wery,’ replied his parent, with a sigh. ‘She’s got hold o’ some inwention for grown-up people being born again, Sammy—the new birth, I think they calls it. I should wery much like to see that system in haction, Sammy. I should wery much like to see your mother-in-law born again. Wouldn’t I put her out to nurse!’

‘What do you think them women does t’other day,’ continued Mr. Weller, after a short pause, during which he had significantly struck the side of his nose with his forefinger some half-dozen times. ‘What do you think they does, t’other day, Sammy?’

‘Don’t know,’ replied Sam, ‘what?’

‘Goes and gets up a grand tea drinkin’ for a feller they calls their shepherd,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘I was a-standing starin’ in at the pictur shop down at our place, when I sees a little bill about it; “tickets half-a-crown. All applications to be made to the committee. Secretary, Mrs. Weller”; and when I got home there was the committee a-sittin’ in our back parlour. Fourteen women; I wish you could ha’ heard ‘em, Sammy. There they was, a-passin’ resolutions, and wotin’ supplies, and all sorts o’ games. Well, what with your mother-in-law a-worrying me to go, and what with my looking for’ard to seein’ some queer starts if I did, I put my name down for a ticket; at six o’clock on the Friday evenin’ I dresses myself out wery smart, and off I goes with the old ‘ooman, and up we walks into a fust-floor where there was tea-things for thirty, and a whole lot o’ women as begins whisperin’ to one another, and lookin’ at me, as if they’d never seen a rayther stout gen’l’m’n of eight-and-fifty afore. By and by, there comes a great bustle downstairs, and a lanky chap with a red nose and a white neckcloth rushes up, and sings out, “Here’s the shepherd a-coming to wisit his faithful flock;” and in comes a fat chap in black, vith a great white face, a-smilin’ avay like clockwork. Such goin’s on, Sammy! “The kiss of peace,” says the shepherd; and then he kissed the women all round, and ven he’d done, the man vith the red nose began. I was just a-thinkin’ whether I hadn’t better begin too—‘specially as there was a wery nice lady a-sittin’ next me—ven in comes the tea, and your mother-in-law, as had been makin’ the kettle bile downstairs. At it they went, tooth and nail. Such a precious loud hymn, Sammy, while the tea was a brewing; such a grace, such eatin’ and drinkin’! I wish you could ha’ seen the shepherd walkin’ into the ham and muffins. I never see such a chap to eat and drink—never. The red-nosed man warn’t by no means the sort of person you’d like to grub by contract, but he was nothin’ to the shepherd. Well; arter the tea was over, they sang another hymn, and then the shepherd began to preach: and wery well he did it, considerin’ how heavy them muffins must have lied on his chest. Presently he pulls up, all of a sudden, and hollers out, “Where is the sinner; where is the mis’rable sinner?” Upon which, all the women looked at me, and began to groan as if they was a-dying. I thought it was rather sing’ler, but howsoever, I says nothing. Presently he pulls up again, and lookin’ wery hard at me, says, “Where is the sinner; where is the mis’rable sinner?” and all the women groans again, ten times louder than afore. I got rather savage at this, so I takes a step or two for’ard and says, “My friend,” says I, “did you apply that ‘ere obserwation to me?” ‘Stead of beggin’ my pardon as any gen’l’m’n would ha’ done, he got more abusive than ever:—called me a wessel, Sammy—a wessel of wrath—and all sorts o’ names. So my blood being reg’larly up, I first gave him two or three for himself, and then two or three more to hand over to the man with the red nose, and walked off. I wish you could ha’ heard how the women screamed, Sammy, ven they picked up the shepherd from underneath the table—Hollo! here’s the governor, the size of life.’

As Mr. Weller spoke, Mr. Pickwick dismounted from a cab, and entered the yard.

‘Fine mornin’, Sir,’ said Mr. Weller, senior.

‘Beautiful indeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Beautiful indeed,’ echoes a red-haired man with an inquisitive nose and green spectacles, who had unpacked himself from a cab at the same moment as Mr. Pickwick. ‘Going to Ipswich, Sir?’

‘I am,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Extraordinary coincidence. So am I.’

Mr. Pickwick bowed.

‘Going outside?’ said the red-haired man.

Mr. Pickwick bowed again.

‘Bless my soul, how remarkable—I am going outside, too,’ said the red-haired man; ‘we are positively going together.’ And the red-haired man, who was an important-looking, sharp-nosed, mysterious-spoken personage, with a bird-like habit of giving his head a jerk every time he said anything, smiled as if he had made one of the strangest discoveries that ever fell to the lot of human wisdom.

‘I am happy in the prospect of your company, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ah,’ said the new-comer, ‘it’s a good thing for both of us, isn’t it? Company, you see—company—is—is—it’s a very different thing from solitude—ain’t it?’

‘There’s no denying that ‘ere,’ said Mr. Weller, joining in the conversation, with an affable smile. ‘That’s what I call a self-evident proposition, as the dog’s-meat man said, when the housemaid told him he warn’t a gentleman.’

‘Ah,’ said the red-haired man, surveying Mr. Weller from head to foot with a supercilious look. ‘Friend of yours, sir?’

‘Not exactly a friend,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, in a low tone. ‘The fact is, he is my servant, but I allow him to take a good many liberties; for, between ourselves, I flatter myself he is an original, and I am rather proud of him.’

‘Ah,’ said the red-haired man, ‘that, you see, is a matter of taste. I am not fond of anything original; I don’t like it; don’t see the necessity for it. What’s your name, sir?’

‘Here is my card, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, much amused by the abruptness of the question, and the singular manner of the stranger.

‘Ah,’ said the red-haired man, placing the card in his pocket-book, ‘Pickwick; very good. I like to know a man’s name, it saves so much trouble. That’s my card, sir. Magnus, you will perceive, sir—Magnus is my name. It’s rather a good name, I think, sir.’

‘A very good name, indeed,’ said Mr. Pickwick, wholly unable to repress a smile.

‘Yes, I think it is,’ resumed Mr. Magnus. ‘There’s a good name before it, too, you will observe. Permit me, sir—if you hold the card a little slanting, this way, you catch the light upon the up-stroke. There—Peter Magnus—sounds well, I think, sir.’

‘Very,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Curious circumstance about those initials, sir,’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘You will observe—P.M.—post meridian. In hasty notes to intimate acquaintance, I sometimes sign myself “Afternoon.” It amuses my friends very much, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘It is calculated to afford them the highest gratification, I should conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rather envying the ease with which Mr. Magnus’s friends were entertained.

‘Now, gen’l’m’n,’ said the hostler, ‘coach is ready, if you please.’

‘Is all my luggage in?’ inquired Mr. Magnus.

‘All right, sir.’

‘Is the red bag in?’

‘All right, Sir.’

‘And the striped bag?’

‘Fore boot, Sir.’

‘And the brown-paper parcel?’

‘Under the seat, Sir.’

‘And the leather hat-box?’

‘They’re all in, Sir.’

‘Now, will you get up?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Excuse me,’ replied Magnus, standing on the wheel. ‘Excuse me, Mr. Pickwick. I cannot consent to get up, in this state of uncertainty. I am quite satisfied from that man’s manner, that the leather hat-box is not in.’

The solemn protestations of the hostler being wholly unavailing, the leather hat-box was obliged to be raked up from the lowest depth of the boot, to satisfy him that it had been safely packed; and after he had been assured on this head, he felt a solemn presentiment, first, that the red bag was mislaid, and next that the striped bag had been stolen, and then that the brown-paper parcel ‘had come untied.’ At length when he had received ocular demonstration of the groundless nature of each and every of these suspicions, he consented to climb up to the roof of the coach, observing that now he had taken everything off his mind, he felt quite comfortable and happy.

‘You’re given to nervousness, ain’t you, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Weller, senior, eyeing the stranger askance, as he mounted to his place.

‘Yes; I always am rather about these little matters,’ said the stranger, ‘but I am all right now—quite right.’

‘Well, that’s a blessin’, said Mr. Weller. ‘Sammy, help your master up to the box; t’other leg, Sir, that’s it; give us your hand, Sir. Up with you. You was a lighter weight when you was a boy, sir.’

True enough, that, Mr. Weller,’ said the breathless Mr. Pickwick good-humouredly, as he took his seat on the box beside him.

‘Jump up in front, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Now Villam, run ‘em out. Take care o’ the archvay, gen’l’m’n. “Heads,” as the pieman says. That’ll do, Villam. Let ‘em alone.’ And away went the coach up Whitechapel, to the admiration of the whole population of that pretty densely populated quarter.

‘Not a wery nice neighbourhood, this, Sir,’ said Sam, with a touch of the hat, which always preceded his entering into conversation with his master.

‘It is not indeed, Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the crowded and filthy street through which they were passing.

‘It’s a wery remarkable circumstance, Sir,’ said Sam, ‘that poverty and oysters always seem to go together.’

‘I don’t understand you, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘What I mean, sir,’ said Sam, ‘is, that the poorer a place is, the greater call there seems to be for oysters. Look here, sir; here’s a oyster-stall to every half-dozen houses. The street’s lined vith ‘em. Blessed if I don’t think that ven a man’s wery poor, he rushes out of his lodgings, and eats oysters in reg’lar desperation.’

‘To be sure he does,’ said Mr. Weller, senior; ‘and it’s just the same vith pickled salmon!’

‘Those are two very remarkable facts, which never occurred to me before,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘The very first place we stop at, I’ll make a note of them.’

By this time they had reached the turnpike at Mile End; a profound silence prevailed until they had got two or three miles farther on, when Mr. Weller, senior, turning suddenly to Mr. Pickwick, said—

‘Wery queer life is a pike-keeper’s, sir.’

‘A what?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘A pike-keeper.’

‘What do you mean by a pike-keeper?’ inquired Mr. Peter Magnus.

‘The old ‘un means a turnpike-keeper, gen’l’m’n,’ observed Mr. Samuel Weller, in explanation.

‘Oh,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I see. Yes; very curious life. Very uncomfortable.’

‘They’re all on ‘em men as has met vith some disappointment in life,’ said Mr. Weller, senior.

‘Ay, ay,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes. Consequence of vich, they retires from the world, and shuts themselves up in pikes; partly with the view of being solitary, and partly to rewenge themselves on mankind by takin’ tolls.’

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I never knew that before.’

‘Fact, Sir,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘if they was gen’l’m’n, you’d call ‘em misanthropes, but as it is, they only takes to pike-keepin’.’

With such conversation, possessing the inestimable charm of blending amusement with instruction, did Mr. Weller beguile the tediousness of the journey, during the greater part of the day. Topics of conversation were never wanting, for even when any pause occurred in Mr. Weller’s loquacity, it was abundantly supplied by the desire evinced by Mr. Magnus to make himself acquainted with the whole of the personal history of his fellow-travellers, and his loudly-expressed anxiety at every stage, respecting the safety and well-being of the two bags, the leather hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel.

In the main street of Ipswich, on the left-hand side of the way, a short distance after you have passed through the open space fronting the Town Hall, stands an inn known far and wide by the appellation of the Great White Horse, rendered the more conspicuous by a stone statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal door. The Great White Horse is famous in the neighbourhood, in the same degree as a prize ox, or a county-paper-chronicled turnip, or unwieldy pig—for its enormous size. Never was such labyrinths of uncarpeted passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers of small dens for eating or sleeping in, beneath any one roof, as are collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at Ipswich.

It was at the door of this overgrown tavern that the London coach stopped, at the same hour every evening; and it was from this same London coach that Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Mr. Peter Magnus dismounted, on the particular evening to which this chapter of our history bears reference.

‘Do you stop here, sir?’ inquired Mr. Peter Magnus, when the striped bag, and the red bag, and the brown-paper parcel, and the leather hat-box, had all been deposited in the passage. ‘Do you stop here, sir?’

‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Magnus, ‘I never knew anything like these extraordinary coincidences. Why, I stop here too. I hope we dine together?’

‘With pleasure,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘I am not quite certain whether I have any friends here or not, though. Is there any gentleman of the name of Tupman here, waiter?’

A corpulent man, with a fortnight’s napkin under his arm, and coeval stockings on his legs, slowly desisted from his occupation of staring down the street, on this question being put to him by Mr. Pickwick; and, after minutely inspecting that gentleman’s appearance, from the crown of his hat to the lowest button of his gaiters, replied emphatically—

‘No!’

‘Nor any gentleman of the name of Snodgrass?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘No!’

‘Nor Winkle?’

‘No!’

‘My friends have not arrived to-day, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘We will dine alone, then. Show us a private room, waiter.’

On this request being preferred, the corpulent man condescended to order the boots to bring in the gentlemen’s luggage; and preceding them down a long, dark passage, ushered them into a large, badly-furnished apartment, with a dirty grate, in which a small fire was making a wretched attempt to be cheerful, but was fast sinking beneath the dispiriting influence of the place. After the lapse of an hour, a bit of fish and a steak was served up to the travellers, and when the dinner was cleared away, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Peter Magnus drew their chairs up to the fire, and having ordered a bottle of the worst possible port wine, at the highest possible price, for the good of the house, drank brandy-and-water for their own.

Mr. Peter Magnus was naturally of a very communicative disposition, and the brandy-and-water operated with wonderful effect in warming into life the deepest hidden secrets of his bosom. After sundry accounts of himself, his family, his connections, his friends, his jokes, his business, and his brothers (most talkative men have a great deal to say about their brothers), Mr. Peter Magnus took a view of Mr. Pickwick through his coloured spectacles for several minutes, and then said, with an air of modesty—

‘And what do you think—what do you think, Mr. Pickwick—I have come down here for?’

‘Upon my word,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘it is wholly impossible for me to guess; on business, perhaps.’

‘Partly right, Sir,’ replied Mr. Peter Magnus, ‘but partly wrong at the same time; try again, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘Really,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I must throw myself on your mercy, to tell me or not, as you may think best; for I should never guess, if I were to try all night.’

‘Why, then, he-he-he!’ said Mr. Peter Magnus, with a bashful titter, ‘what should you think, Mr. Pickwick, if I had come down here to make a proposal, Sir, eh? He, he, he!’

‘Think! That you are very likely to succeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, with one of his beaming smiles.

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘But do you really think so, Mr. Pickwick? Do you, though?’

‘Certainly,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘No; but you’re joking, though.’

‘I am not, indeed.’

‘Why, then,’ said Mr. Magnus, ‘to let you into a little secret, I think so too. I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Pickwick, although I’m dreadful jealous by nature—horrid—that the lady is in this house.’ Here Mr. Magnus took off his spectacles, on purpose to wink, and then put them on again.

‘That’s what you were running out of the room for, before dinner, then, so often,’ said Mr. Pickwick archly.

‘Hush! Yes, you’re right, that was it; not such a fool as to see her, though.’

‘No!’

‘No; wouldn’t do, you know, after having just come off a journey. Wait till to-morrow, sir; double the chance then. Mr. Pickwick, Sir, there is a suit of clothes in that bag, and a hat in that box, which, I expect, in the effect they will produce, will be invaluable to me, sir.’

‘Indeed!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes; you must have observed my anxiety about them to-day. I do not believe that such another suit of clothes, and such a hat, could be bought for money, Mr. Pickwick.’

Mr. Pickwick congratulated the fortunate owner of the irresistible garments on their acquisition; and Mr. Peter Magnus remained a few moments apparently absorbed in contemplation.

‘She’s a fine creature,’ said Mr. Magnus.

‘Is she?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Very,’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘Very. She lives about twenty miles from here, Mr. Pickwick. I heard she would be here to-night and all to-morrow forenoon, and came down to seize the opportunity. I think an inn is a good sort of a place to propose to a single woman in, Mr. Pickwick. She is more likely to feel the loneliness of her situation in travelling, perhaps, than she would be at home. What do you think, Mr. Pickwick?’

‘I think it is very probable,’ replied that gentleman.

‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus, ‘but I am naturally rather curious; what may you have come down here for?’

‘On a far less pleasant errand, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, the colour mounting to his face at the recollection. ‘I have come down here, Sir, to expose the treachery and falsehood of an individual, upon whose truth and honour I placed implicit reliance.’

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus, ‘that’s very unpleasant. It is a lady, I presume? Eh? ah! Sly, Mr. Pickwick, sly. Well, Mr. Pickwick, sir, I wouldn’t probe your feelings for the world. Painful subjects, these, sir, very painful. Don’t mind me, Mr. Pickwick, if you wish to give vent to your feelings. I know what it is to be jilted, Sir; I have endured that sort of thing three or four times.’

‘I am much obliged to you, for your condolence on what you presume to be my melancholy case,’ said Mr. Pickwick, winding up his watch, and laying it on the table, ‘but—’

‘No, no,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus, ‘not a word more; it’s a painful subject. I see, I see. What’s the time, Mr. Pickwick?’

Past twelve.’

‘Dear me, it’s time to go to bed. It will never do, sitting here. I shall be pale to-morrow, Mr. Pickwick.’

At the bare notion of such a calamity, Mr. Peter Magnus rang the bell for the chambermaid; and the striped bag, the red bag, the leathern hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel, having been conveyed to his bedroom, he retired in company with a japanned candlestick, to one side of the house, while Mr. Pickwick, and another japanned candlestick, were conducted through a multitude of tortuous windings, to another.

‘This is your room, sir,’ said the chambermaid.

‘Very well,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, looking round him. It was a tolerably large double-bedded room, with a fire; upon the whole, a more comfortable-looking apartment than Mr. Pickwick’s short experience of the accommodations of the Great White Horse had led him to expect.

‘Nobody sleeps in the other bed, of course,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Oh, no, Sir.’

‘Very good. Tell my servant to bring me up some hot water at half-past eight in the morning, and that I shall not want him any more to-night.’

‘Yes, Sir,’ and bidding Mr. Pickwick good-night, the chambermaid retired, and left him alone.

Mr. Pickwick sat himself down in a chair before the fire, and fell into a train of rambling meditations. First he thought of his friends, and wondered when they would join him; then his mind reverted to Mrs. Martha Bardell; and from that lady it wandered, by a natural process, to the dingy counting-house of Dodson & Fogg. From Dodson & Fogg’s it flew off at a tangent, to the very centre of the history of the queer client; and then it came back to the Great White Horse at Ipswich, with sufficient clearness to convince Mr. Pickwick that he was falling asleep. So he roused himself, and began to undress, when he recollected he had left his watch on the table downstairs.

Now this watch was a special favourite with Mr. Pickwick, having been carried about, beneath the shadow of his waistcoat, for a greater number of years than we feel called upon to state at present. The possibility of going to sleep, unless it were ticking gently beneath his pillow, or in the watch-pocket over his head, had never entered Mr. Pickwick’s brain. So as it was pretty late now, and he was unwilling to ring his bell at that hour of the night, he slipped on his coat, of which he had just divested himself, and taking the japanned candlestick in his hand, walked quietly downstairs.

The more stairs Mr. Pickwick went down, the more stairs there seemed to be to descend, and again and again, when Mr. Pickwick got into some narrow passage, and began to congratulate himself on having gained the ground-floor, did another flight of stairs appear before his astonished eyes. At last he reached a stone hall, which he remembered to have seen when he entered the house. Passage after passage did he explore; room after room did he peep into; at length, as he was on the point of giving up the search in despair, he opened the door of the identical room in which he had spent the evening, and beheld his missing property on the table.

Mr. Pickwick seized the watch in triumph, and proceeded to retrace his steps to his bedchamber. If his progress downward had been attended with difficulties and uncertainty, his journey back was infinitely more perplexing. Rows of doors, garnished with boots of every shape, make, and size, branched off in every possible direction. A dozen times did he softly turn the handle of some bedroom door which resembled his own, when a gruff cry from within of ‘Who the devil’s that?’ or ‘What do you want here?’ caused him to steal away, on tiptoe, with a perfectly marvellous celerity. He was reduced to the verge of despair, when an open door attracted his attention. He peeped in. Right at last! There were the two beds, whose situation he perfectly remembered, and the fire still burning. His candle, not a long one when he first received it, had flickered away in the drafts of air through which he had passed and sank into the socket as he closed the door after him. ‘No matter,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I can undress myself just as well by the light of the fire.’

The bedsteads stood one on each side of the door; and on the inner side of each was a little path, terminating in a rush-bottomed chair, just wide enough to admit of a person’s getting into or out of bed, on that side, if he or she thought proper. Having carefully drawn the curtains of his bed on the outside, Mr. Pickwick sat down on the rush-bottomed chair, and leisurely divested himself of his shoes and gaiters. He then took off and folded up his coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth, and slowly drawing on his tasselled nightcap, secured it firmly on his head, by tying beneath his chin the strings which he always had attached to that article of dress. It was at this moment that the absurdity of his recent bewilderment struck upon his mind. Throwing himself back in the rush-bottomed chair, Mr. Pickwick laughed to himself so heartily, that it would have been quite delightful to any man of well-constituted mind to have watched the smiles that expanded his amiable features as they shone forth from beneath the nightcap.

‘It is the best idea,’ said Mr. Pickwick to himself, smiling till he almost cracked the nightcap strings—‘it is the best idea, my losing myself in this place, and wandering about these staircases, that I ever heard of. Droll, droll, very droll.’ Here Mr. Pickwick smiled again, a broader smile than before, and was about to continue the process of undressing, in the best possible humour, when he was suddenly stopped by a most unexpected interruption: to wit, the entrance into the room of some person with a candle, who, after locking the door, advanced to the dressing-table, and set down the light upon it.

The smile that played on Mr. Pickwick’s features was instantaneously lost in a look of the most unbounded and wonder-stricken surprise. The person, whoever it was, had come in so suddenly and with so little noise, that Mr. Pickwick had had no time to call out, or oppose their entrance. Who could it be? A robber? Some evil-minded person who had seen him come upstairs with a handsome watch in his hand, perhaps. What was he to do?

The only way in which Mr. Pickwick could catch a glimpse of his mysterious visitor with the least danger of being seen himself, was by creeping on to the bed, and peeping out from between the curtains on the opposite side. To this manoeuvre he accordingly resorted. Keeping the curtains carefully closed with his hand, so that nothing more of him could be seen than his face and nightcap, and putting on his spectacles, he mustered up courage and looked out.

Mr. Pickwick almost fainted with horror and dismay. Standing before the dressing-glass was a middle-aged lady, in yellow curl-papers, busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their ‘back-hair.’ However the unconscious middle-aged lady came into that room, it was quite clear that she contemplated remaining there for the night; for she had brought a rushlight and shade with her, which, with praiseworthy precaution against fire, she had stationed in a basin on the floor, where it was glimmering away, like a gigantic lighthouse in a particularly small piece of water.

‘Bless my soul!’ thought Mr. Pickwick, ‘what a dreadful thing!’

‘Hem!’ said the lady; and in went Mr. Pickwick’s head with automaton-like rapidity.

‘I never met with anything so awful as this,’ thought poor Mr. Pickwick, the cold perspiration starting in drops upon his nightcap. ‘Never. This is fearful.’

It was quite impossible to resist the urgent desire to see what was going forward. So out went Mr. Pickwick’s head again. The prospect was worse than before. The middle-aged lady had finished arranging her hair; had carefully enveloped it in a muslin nightcap with a small plaited border; and was gazing pensively on the fire.

‘This matter is growing alarming,’ reasoned Mr. Pickwick with himself. ‘I can’t allow things to go on in this way. By the self-possession of that lady, it is clear to me that I must have come into the wrong room. If I call out she’ll alarm the house; but if I remain here the consequences will be still more frightful.’

Mr. Pickwick, it is quite unnecessary to say, was one of the most modest and delicate-minded of mortals. The very idea of exhibiting his nightcap to a lady overpowered him, but he had tied those confounded strings in a knot, and, do what he would, he couldn’t get it off. The disclosure must be made. There was only one other way of doing it. He shrunk behind the curtains, and called out very loudly—

‘Ha-hum!’

That the lady started at this unexpected sound was evident, by her falling up against the rushlight shade; that she persuaded herself it must have been the effect of imagination was equally clear, for when Mr. Pickwick, under the impression that she had fainted away stone-dead with fright, ventured to peep out again, she was gazing pensively on the fire as before.

‘Most extraordinary female this,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, popping in again. ‘Ha-hum!’

These last sounds, so like those in which, as legends inform us, the ferocious giant Blunderbore was in the habit of expressing his opinion that it was time to lay the cloth, were too distinctly audible to be again mistaken for the workings of fancy.

‘Gracious Heaven!’ said the middle-aged lady, ‘what’s that?’

‘It’s—it’s—only a gentleman, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, from behind the curtains.

‘A gentleman!’ said the lady, with a terrific scream.

‘It’s all over!’ thought Mr. Pickwick.

‘A strange man!’ shrieked the lady. Another instant and the house would be alarmed. Her garments rustled as she rushed towards the door.

‘Ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, thrusting out his head in the extremity of his desperation, ‘ma’am!’

Now, although Mr. Pickwick was not actuated by any definite object in putting out his head, it was instantaneously productive of a good effect. The lady, as we have already stated, was near the door. She must pass it, to reach the staircase, and she would most undoubtedly have done so by this time, had not the sudden apparition of Mr. Pickwick’s nightcap driven her back into the remotest corner of the apartment, where she stood staring wildly at Mr. Pickwick, while Mr. Pickwick in his turn stared wildly at her.

‘Wretch,’ said the lady, covering her eyes with her hands, ‘what do you want here?’

‘Nothing, ma’am; nothing whatever, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick earnestly.

‘Nothing!’ said the lady, looking up.

‘Nothing, ma’am, upon my honour,’ said Mr. Pickwick, nodding his head so energetically, that the tassel of his nightcap danced again. ‘I am almost ready to sink, ma’am, beneath the confusion of addressing a lady in my nightcap (here the lady hastily snatched off hers), but I can’t get it off, ma’am (here Mr. Pickwick gave it a tremendous tug, in proof of the statement). It is evident to me, ma’am, now, that I have mistaken this bedroom for my own. I had not been here five minutes, ma’am, when you suddenly entered it.’

‘If this improbable story be really true, Sir,’ said the lady, sobbing violently, ‘you will leave it instantly.’

‘I will, ma’am, with the greatest pleasure,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Instantly, sir,’ said the lady.

‘Certainly, ma’am,’ interposed Mr. Pickwick, very quickly. ‘Certainly, ma’am. I—I—am very sorry, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, making his appearance at the bottom of the bed, ‘to have been the innocent occasion of this alarm and emotion; deeply sorry, ma’am.’

The lady pointed to the door. One excellent quality of Mr. Pickwick’s character was beautifully displayed at this moment, under the most trying circumstances. Although he had hastily put on his hat over his nightcap, after the manner of the old patrol; although he carried his shoes and gaiters in his hand, and his coat and waistcoat over his arm; nothing could subdue his native politeness.

‘I am exceedingly sorry, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low.

‘If you are, Sir, you will at once leave the room,’ said the lady.

‘Immediately, ma’am; this instant, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, opening the door, and dropping both his shoes with a crash in so doing.

‘I trust, ma’am,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, gathering up his shoes, and turning round to bow again—‘I trust, ma’am, that my unblemished character, and the devoted respect I entertain for your sex, will plead as some slight excuse for this—’ But before Mr. Pickwick could conclude the sentence, the lady had thrust him into the passage, and locked and bolted the door behind him.

Whatever grounds of self-congratulation Mr. Pickwick might have for having escaped so quietly from his late awkward situation, his present position was by no means enviable. He was alone, in an open passage, in a strange house in the middle of the night, half dressed; it was not to be supposed that he could find his way in perfect darkness to a room which he had been wholly unable to discover with a light, and if he made the slightest noise in his fruitless attempts to do so, he stood every chance of being shot at, and perhaps killed, by some wakeful traveller. He had no resource but to remain where he was until daylight appeared. So after groping his way a few paces down the passage, and, to his infinite alarm, stumbling over several pairs of boots in so doing, Mr. Pickwick crouched into a little recess in the wall, to wait for morning, as philosophically as he might.

He was not destined, however, to undergo this additional trial of patience; for he had not been long ensconced in his present concealment when, to his unspeakable horror, a man, bearing a light, appeared at the end of the passage. His horror was suddenly converted into joy, however, when he recognised the form of his faithful attendant. It was indeed Mr. Samuel Weller, who after sitting up thus late, in conversation with the boots, who was sitting up for the mail, was now about to retire to rest.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly appearing before him, ‘where’s my bedroom?’

Mr. Weller stared at his master with the most emphatic surprise; and it was not until the question had been repeated three several times, that he turned round, and led the way to the long-sought apartment.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as he got into bed, ‘I have made one of the most extraordinary mistakes to-night, that ever were heard of.’

‘Wery likely, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller drily.

‘But of this I am determined, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘that if I were to stop in this house for six months, I would never trust myself about it, alone, again.’

‘That’s the wery prudentest resolution as you could come to, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘You rayther want somebody to look arter you, Sir, when your judgment goes out a wisitin’.’

‘What do you mean by that, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick. He raised himself in bed, and extended his hand, as if he were about to say something more; but suddenly checking himself, turned round, and bade his valet ‘Good-night.’

‘Good-night, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. He paused when he got outside the door—shook his head—walked on—stopped—snuffed the candle—shook his head again—and finally proceeded slowly to his chamber, apparently buried in the profoundest meditation.






CHAPTER XXIII. IN WHICH MR. SAMUEL WELLER BEGINS TO DEVOTE HIS ENERGIES TO THE RETURN MATCH BETWEEN HIMSELF AND MR. TROTTER

In a small room in the vicinity of the stableyard, betimes in the morning, which was ushered in by Mr. Pickwick’s adventure with the middle—aged lady in the yellow curl-papers, sat Mr. Weller, senior, preparing himself for his journey to London. He was sitting in an excellent attitude for having his portrait taken; and here it is.

It is very possible that at some earlier period of his career, Mr. Weller’s profile might have presented a bold and determined outline. His face, however, had expanded under the influence of good living, and a disposition remarkable for resignation; and its bold, fleshy curves had so far extended beyond the limits originally assigned them, that unless you took a full view of his countenance in front, it was difficult to distinguish more than the extreme tip of a very rubicund nose. His chin, from the same cause, had acquired the grave and imposing form which is generally described by prefixing the word ‘double’ to that expressive feature; and his complexion exhibited that peculiarly mottled combination of colours which is only to be seen in gentlemen of his profession, and in underdone roast beef. Round his neck he wore a crimson travelling-shawl, which merged into his chin by such imperceptible gradations, that it was difficult to distinguish the folds of the one, from the folds of the other. Over this, he mounted a long waistcoat of a broad pink-striped pattern, and over that again, a wide-skirted green coat, ornamented with large brass buttons, whereof the two which garnished the waist, were so far apart, that no man had ever beheld them both at the same time. His hair, which was short, sleek, and black, was just visible beneath the capacious brim of a low-crowned brown hat. His legs were encased in knee-cord breeches, and painted top-boots; and a copper watch-chain, terminating in one seal, and a key of the same material, dangled loosely from his capacious waistband.

We have said that Mr. Weller was engaged in preparing for his journey to London—he was taking sustenance, in fact. On the table before him, stood a pot of ale, a cold round of beef, and a very respectable-looking loaf, to each of which he distributed his favours in turn, with the most rigid impartiality. He had just cut a mighty slice from the latter, when the footsteps of somebody entering the room, caused him to raise his head; and he beheld his son.

‘Mornin’, Sammy!’ said the father.

The son walked up to the pot of ale, and nodding significantly to his parent, took a long draught by way of reply.

‘Wery good power o’ suction, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller the elder, looking into the pot, when his first-born had set it down half empty. ‘You’d ha’ made an uncommon fine oyster, Sammy, if you’d been born in that station o’ life.’

‘Yes, I des-say, I should ha’ managed to pick up a respectable livin’,’ replied Sam applying himself to the cold beef, with considerable vigour.

‘I’m wery sorry, Sammy,’ said the elder Mr. Weller, shaking up the ale, by describing small circles with the pot, preparatory to drinking. ‘I’m wery sorry, Sammy, to hear from your lips, as you let yourself be gammoned by that ‘ere mulberry man. I always thought, up to three days ago, that the names of Veller and gammon could never come into contract, Sammy, never.’

‘Always exceptin’ the case of a widder, of course,’ said Sam.

‘Widders, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, slightly changing colour. ‘Widders are ‘ceptions to ev’ry rule. I have heerd how many ordinary women one widder’s equal to in pint o’ comin’ over you. I think it’s five-and-twenty, but I don’t rightly know vether it ain’t more.’

‘Well; that’s pretty well,’ said Sam.

‘Besides,’ continued Mr. Weller, not noticing the interruption, ‘that’s a wery different thing. You know what the counsel said, Sammy, as defended the gen’l’m’n as beat his wife with the poker, venever he got jolly. “And arter all, my Lord,” says he, “it’s a amiable weakness.” So I says respectin’ widders, Sammy, and so you’ll say, ven you gets as old as me.’

‘I ought to ha’ know’d better, I know,’ said Sam.

‘Ought to ha’ know’d better!’ repeated Mr. Weller, striking the table with his fist. ‘Ought to ha’ know’d better! why, I know a young ‘un as hasn’t had half nor quarter your eddication—as hasn’t slept about the markets, no, not six months—who’d ha’ scorned to be let in, in such a vay; scorned it, Sammy.’ In the excitement of feeling produced by this agonising reflection, Mr. Weller rang the bell, and ordered an additional pint of ale.

‘Well, it’s no use talking about it now,’ said Sam. ‘It’s over, and can’t be helped, and that’s one consolation, as they always says in Turkey, ven they cuts the wrong man’s head off. It’s my innings now, gov’nor, and as soon as I catches hold o’ this ‘ere Trotter, I’ll have a good ‘un.’

‘I hope you will, Sammy. I hope you will,’ returned Mr. Weller. ‘Here’s your health, Sammy, and may you speedily vipe off the disgrace as you’ve inflicted on the family name.’ In honour of this toast Mr. Weller imbibed at a draught, at least two-thirds of a newly-arrived pint, and handed it over to his son, to dispose of the remainder, which he instantaneously did.

‘And now, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, consulting a large double-faced silver watch that hung at the end of the copper chain. ‘Now it’s time I was up at the office to get my vay-bill and see the coach loaded; for coaches, Sammy, is like guns—they requires to be loaded with wery great care, afore they go off.’

At this parental and professional joke, Mr. Weller, junior, smiled a filial smile. His revered parent continued in a solemn tone—

‘I’m a-goin’ to leave you, Samivel, my boy, and there’s no telling ven I shall see you again. Your mother-in-law may ha’ been too much for me, or a thousand things may have happened by the time you next hears any news o’ the celebrated Mr. Veller o’ the Bell Savage. The family name depends wery much upon you, Samivel, and I hope you’ll do wot’s right by it. Upon all little pints o’ breedin’, I know I may trust you as vell as if it was my own self. So I’ve only this here one little bit of adwice to give you. If ever you gets to up’ards o’ fifty, and feels disposed to go a-marryin’ anybody—no matter who—jist you shut yourself up in your own room, if you’ve got one, and pison yourself off hand. Hangin’s wulgar, so don’t you have nothin’ to say to that. Pison yourself, Samivel, my boy, pison yourself, and you’ll be glad on it arterwards.’ With these affecting words, Mr. Weller looked steadfastly on his son, and turning slowly upon his heel, disappeared from his sight.

In the contemplative mood which these words had awakened, Mr. Samuel Weller walked forth from the Great White Horse when his father had left him; and bending his steps towards St. Clement’s Church, endeavoured to dissipate his melancholy, by strolling among its ancient precincts. He had loitered about, for some time, when he found himself in a retired spot—a kind of courtyard of venerable appearance—which he discovered had no other outlet than the turning by which he had entered. He was about retracing his steps, when he was suddenly transfixed to the spot by a sudden appearance; and the mode and manner of this appearance, we now proceed to relate.

Mr. Samuel Weller had been staring up at the old brick houses now and then, in his deep abstraction, bestowing a wink upon some healthy-looking servant girl as she drew up a blind, or threw open a bedroom window, when the green gate of a garden at the bottom of the yard opened, and a man having emerged therefrom, closed the green gate very carefully after him, and walked briskly towards the very spot where Mr. Weller was standing.

Now, taking this, as an isolated fact, unaccompanied by any attendant circumstances, there was nothing very extraordinary in it; because in many parts of the world men do come out of gardens, close green gates after them, and even walk briskly away, without attracting any particular share of public observation. It is clear, therefore, that there must have been something in the man, or in his manner, or both, to attract Mr. Weller’s particular notice. Whether there was, or not, we must leave the reader to determine, when we have faithfully recorded the behaviour of the individual in question.

When the man had shut the green gate after him, he walked, as we have said twice already, with a brisk pace up the courtyard; but he no sooner caught sight of Mr. Weller than he faltered, and stopped, as if uncertain, for the moment, what course to adopt. As the green gate was closed behind him, and there was no other outlet but the one in front, however, he was not long in perceiving that he must pass Mr. Samuel Weller to get away. He therefore resumed his brisk pace, and advanced, staring straight before him. The most extraordinary thing about the man was, that he was contorting his face into the most fearful and astonishing grimaces that ever were beheld. Nature’s handiwork never was disguised with such extraordinary artificial carving, as the man had overlaid his countenance with in one moment.

‘Well!’ said Mr. Weller to himself, as the man approached. ‘This is wery odd. I could ha’ swore it was him.’

Up came the man, and his face became more frightfully distorted than ever, as he drew nearer.

‘I could take my oath to that ‘ere black hair and mulberry suit,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘only I never see such a face as that afore.’

As Mr. Weller said this, the man’s features assumed an unearthly twinge, perfectly hideous. He was obliged to pass very near Sam, however, and the scrutinising glance of that gentleman enabled him to detect, under all these appalling twists of feature, something too like the small eyes of Mr. Job Trotter to be easily mistaken.

‘Hollo, you Sir!’ shouted Sam fiercely.

The stranger stopped.

‘Hollo!’ repeated Sam, still more gruffly.

The man with the horrible face looked, with the greatest surprise, up the court, and down the court, and in at the windows of the houses—everywhere but at Sam Weller—and took another step forward, when he was brought to again by another shout.

‘Hollo, you sir!’ said Sam, for the third time.

There was no pretending to mistake where the voice came from now, so the stranger, having no other resource, at last looked Sam Weller full in the face.

‘It won’t do, Job Trotter,’ said Sam. ‘Come! None o’ that ‘ere nonsense. You ain’t so wery ‘andsome that you can afford to throw avay many o’ your good looks. Bring them ‘ere eyes o’ yourn back into their proper places, or I’ll knock ‘em out of your head. D’ye hear?’

As Mr. Weller appeared fully disposed to act up to the spirit of this address, Mr. Trotter gradually allowed his face to resume its natural expression; and then giving a start of joy, exclaimed, ‘What do I see? Mr. Walker!’

‘Ah,’ replied Sam. ‘You’re wery glad to see me, ain’t you?’

‘Glad!’ exclaimed Job Trotter; ‘Oh, Mr. Walker, if you had but known how I have looked forward to this meeting! It is too much, Mr. Walker; I cannot bear it, indeed I cannot.’ And with these words, Mr. Trotter burst into a regular inundation of tears, and, flinging his arms around those of Mr. Weller, embraced him closely, in an ecstasy of joy.

‘Get off!’ cried Sam, indignant at this process, and vainly endeavouring to extricate himself from the grasp of his enthusiastic acquaintance. ‘Get off, I tell you. What are you crying over me for, you portable engine?’

‘Because I am so glad to see you,’ replied Job Trotter, gradually releasing Mr. Weller, as the first symptoms of his pugnacity disappeared. ‘Oh, Mr. Walker, this is too much.’

‘Too much!’ echoed Sam, ‘I think it is too much—rayther! Now, what have you got to say to me, eh?’

Mr. Trotter made no reply; for the little pink pocket-handkerchief was in full force.

‘What have you got to say to me, afore I knock your head off?’ repeated Mr. Weller, in a threatening manner.

‘Eh!’ said Mr. Trotter, with a look of virtuous surprise.

‘What have you got to say to me?’

‘I, Mr. Walker!’

‘Don’t call me Valker; my name’s Veller; you know that vell enough. What have you got to say to me?’

‘Bless you, Mr. Walker—Weller, I mean—a great many things, if you will come away somewhere, where we can talk comfortably. If you knew how I have looked for you, Mr. Weller—’

‘Wery hard, indeed, I s’pose?’ said Sam drily.

‘Very, very, Sir,’ replied Mr. Trotter, without moving a muscle of his face. ‘But shake hands, Mr. Weller.’

Sam eyed his companion for a few seconds, and then, as if actuated by a sudden impulse, complied with his request.

‘How,’ said Job Trotter, as they walked away, ‘how is your dear, good master? Oh, he is a worthy gentleman, Mr. Weller! I hope he didn’t catch cold, that dreadful night, Sir.’

There was a momentary look of deep slyness in Job Trotter’s eye, as he said this, which ran a thrill through Mr. Weller’s clenched fist, as he burned with a desire to make a demonstration on his ribs. Sam constrained himself, however, and replied that his master was extremely well.

‘Oh, I am so glad,’ replied Mr. Trotter; ‘is he here?’

‘Is yourn?’ asked Sam, by way of reply.

‘Oh, yes, he is here, and I grieve to say, Mr. Weller, he is going on worse than ever.’

‘Ah, ah!’ said Sam.

‘Oh, shocking—terrible!’

‘At a boarding-school?’ said Sam.

‘No, not at a boarding-school,’ replied Job Trotter, with the same sly look which Sam had noticed before; ‘not at a boarding-school.’

‘At the house with the green gate?’ said Sam, eyeing his companion closely.

‘No, no—oh, not there,’ replied Job, with a quickness very unusual to him, ‘not there.’

‘What was you a-doin’ there?’ asked Sam, with a sharp glance. ‘Got inside the gate by accident, perhaps?’

‘Why, Mr. Weller,’ replied Job, ‘I don’t mind telling you my little secrets, because, you know, we took such a fancy for each other when we first met. You recollect how pleasant we were that morning?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Sam, impatiently. ‘I remember. Well?’

‘Well,’ replied Job, speaking with great precision, and in the low tone of a man who communicates an important secret; ‘in that house with the green gate, Mr. Weller, they keep a good many servants.’

‘So I should think, from the look on it,’ interposed Sam.

‘Yes,’ continued Mr. Trotter, ‘and one of them is a cook, who has saved up a little money, Mr. Weller, and is desirous, if she can establish herself in life, to open a little shop in the chandlery way, you see.’

Yes.’

‘Yes, Mr. Weller. Well, Sir, I met her at a chapel that I go to; a very neat little chapel in this town, Mr. Weller, where they sing the number four collection of hymns, which I generally carry about with me, in a little book, which you may perhaps have seen in my hand—and I got a little intimate with her, Mr. Weller, and from that, an acquaintance sprung up between us, and I may venture to say, Mr. Weller, that I am to be the chandler.’

‘Ah, and a wery amiable chandler you’ll make,’ replied Sam, eyeing Job with a side look of intense dislike.

‘The great advantage of this, Mr. Weller,’ continued Job, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke, ‘will be, that I shall be able to leave my present disgraceful service with that bad man, and to devote myself to a better and more virtuous life; more like the way in which I was brought up, Mr. Weller.’

‘You must ha’ been wery nicely brought up,’ said Sam.

‘Oh, very, Mr. Weller, very,’ replied Job. At the recollection of the purity of his youthful days, Mr. Trotter pulled forth the pink handkerchief, and wept copiously.

‘You must ha’ been an uncommon nice boy, to go to school vith,’ said Sam.

‘I was, sir,’ replied Job, heaving a deep sigh; ‘I was the idol of the place.’

‘Ah,’ said Sam, ‘I don’t wonder at it. What a comfort you must ha’ been to your blessed mother.’

At these words, Mr. Job Trotter inserted an end of the pink handkerchief into the corner of each eye, one after the other, and began to weep copiously.

‘Wot’s the matter with the man,’ said Sam, indignantly. ‘Chelsea water-works is nothin’ to you. What are you melting vith now? The consciousness o’ willainy?’

‘I cannot keep my feelings down, Mr. Weller,’ said Job, after a short pause. ‘To think that my master should have suspected the conversation I had with yours, and so dragged me away in a post-chaise, and after persuading the sweet young lady to say she knew nothing of him, and bribing the school-mistress to do the same, deserted her for a better speculation! Oh! Mr. Weller, it makes me shudder.’

‘Oh, that was the vay, was it?’ said Mr. Weller.

‘To be sure it was,’ replied Job.

‘Vell,’ said Sam, as they had now arrived near the hotel, ‘I vant to have a little bit o’ talk with you, Job; so if you’re not partickler engaged, I should like to see you at the Great White Horse to-night, somewheres about eight o’clock.’

‘I shall be sure to come,’ said Job.

‘Yes, you’d better,’ replied Sam, with a very meaning look, ‘or else I shall perhaps be askin’ arter you, at the other side of the green gate, and then I might cut you out, you know.’

‘I shall be sure to be with you, sir,’ said Mr. Trotter; and wringing Sam’s hand with the utmost fervour, he walked away.

‘Take care, Job Trotter, take care,’ said Sam, looking after him, ‘or I shall be one too many for you this time. I shall, indeed.’ Having uttered this soliloquy, and looked after Job till he was to be seen no more, Mr. Weller made the best of his way to his master’s bedroom.

‘It’s all in training, Sir,’ said Sam.

‘What’s in training, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘I’ve found ‘em out, Sir,’ said Sam.

‘Found out who?’

‘That ‘ere queer customer, and the melan-cholly chap with the black hair.’

‘Impossible, Sam!’ said Mr. Pickwick, with the greatest energy. ‘Where are they, Sam: where are they?’

‘Hush, hush!’ replied Mr. Weller; and as he assisted Mr. Pickwick to dress, he detailed the plan of action on which he proposed to enter.

‘But when is this to be done, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘All in good time, Sir,’ replied Sam.

Whether it was done in good time, or not, will be seen hereafter.






CHAPTER XXIV. WHEREIN MR. PETER MAGNUS GROWS JEALOUS, AND THE MIDDLE-AGED LADY APPREHENSIVE, WHICH BRINGS THE PICKWICKIANS WITHIN THE GRASP OF THE LAW

When Mr. Pickwick descended to the room in which he and Mr. Peter Magnus had spent the preceding evening, he found that gentleman with the major part of the contents of the two bags, the leathern hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel, displaying to all possible advantage on his person, while he himself was pacing up and down the room in a state of the utmost excitement and agitation.

‘Good-morning, Sir,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus. ‘What do you think of this, Sir?’

‘Very effective indeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the garments of Mr. Peter Magnus with a good-natured smile.

‘Yes, I think it’ll do,’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘Mr. Pickwick, Sir, I have sent up my card.’

‘Have you?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘And the waiter brought back word, that she would see me at eleven—at eleven, Sir; it only wants a quarter now.’

‘Very near the time,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes, it is rather near,’ replied Mr. Magnus, ‘rather too near to be pleasant—eh! Mr. Pickwick, sir?’

‘Confidence is a great thing in these cases,’ observed Mr. Pickwick.

‘I believe it is, Sir,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus. ‘I am very confident, Sir. Really, Mr. Pickwick, I do not see why a man should feel any fear in such a case as this, sir. What is it, Sir? There’s nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a matter of mutual accommodation, nothing more. Husband on one side, wife on the other. That’s my view of the matter, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘It is a very philosophical one,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘But breakfast is waiting, Mr. Magnus. Come.’

Down they sat to breakfast, but it was evident, notwithstanding the boasting of Mr. Peter Magnus, that he laboured under a very considerable degree of nervousness, of which loss of appetite, a propensity to upset the tea-things, a spectral attempt at drollery, and an irresistible inclination to look at the clock, every other second, were among the principal symptoms.

‘He-he-he,’ tittered Mr. Magnus, affecting cheerfulness, and gasping with agitation. ‘It only wants two minutes, Mr. Pickwick. Am I pale, Sir?’

‘Not very,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

There was a brief pause.

‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick; but have you ever done this sort of thing in your time?’ said Mr. Magnus.

‘You mean proposing?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes.’

‘Never,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with great energy, ‘never.’

‘You have no idea, then, how it’s best to begin?’ said Mr. Magnus.

‘Why,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I may have formed some ideas upon the subject, but, as I have never submitted them to the test of experience, I should be sorry if you were induced to regulate your proceedings by them.’

‘I should feel very much obliged to you, for any advice, Sir,’ said Mr. Magnus, taking another look at the clock, the hand of which was verging on the five minutes past.

‘Well, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with the profound solemnity with which that great man could, when he pleased, render his remarks so deeply impressive. ‘I should commence, sir, with a tribute to the lady’s beauty and excellent qualities; from them, Sir, I should diverge to my own unworthiness.’

‘Very good,’ said Mr. Magnus.

‘Unworthiness for her only, mind, sir,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick; ‘for to show that I was not wholly unworthy, sir, I should take a brief review of my past life, and present condition. I should argue, by analogy, that to anybody else, I must be a very desirable object. I should then expatiate on the warmth of my love, and the depth of my devotion. Perhaps I might then be tempted to seize her hand.’

‘Yes, I see,’ said Mr. Magnus; ‘that would be a very great point.’

‘I should then, Sir,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, growing warmer as the subject presented itself in more glowing colours before him—‘I should then, Sir, come to the plain and simple question, “Will you have me?” I think I am justified in assuming that upon this, she would turn away her head.’

‘You think that may be taken for granted?’ said Mr. Magnus; ‘because, if she did not do that at the right place, it would be embarrassing.’

‘I think she would,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Upon this, sir, I should squeeze her hand, and I think—I think, Mr. Magnus—that after I had done that, supposing there was no refusal, I should gently draw away the handkerchief, which my slight knowledge of human nature leads me to suppose the lady would be applying to her eyes at the moment, and steal a respectful kiss. I think I should kiss her, Mr. Magnus; and at this particular point, I am decidedly of opinion that if the lady were going to take me at all, she would murmur into my ears a bashful acceptance.’

Mr. Magnus started; gazed on Mr. Pickwick’s intelligent face, for a short time in silence; and then (the dial pointing to the ten minutes past) shook him warmly by the hand, and rushed desperately from the room.

Mr. Pickwick had taken a few strides to and fro; and the small hand of the clock following the latter part of his example, had arrived at the figure which indicates the half-hour, when the door suddenly opened. He turned round to meet Mr. Peter Magnus, and encountered, in his stead, the joyous face of Mr. Tupman, the serene countenance of Mr. Winkle, and the intellectual lineaments of Mr. Snodgrass.

As Mr. Pickwick greeted them, Mr. Peter Magnus tripped into the room.

‘My friends, the gentleman I was speaking of—Mr. Magnus,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Your servant, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Magnus, evidently in a high state of excitement; ‘Mr. Pickwick, allow me to speak to you one moment, sir.’

As he said this, Mr. Magnus harnessed his forefinger to Mr. Pickwick’s buttonhole, and, drawing him to a window recess, said—

‘Congratulate me, Mr. Pickwick; I followed your advice to the very letter.’

‘And it was all correct, was it?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘It was, Sir. Could not possibly have been better,’ replied Mr. Magnus. ‘Mr. Pickwick, she is mine.’

‘I congratulate you, with all my heart,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, warmly shaking his new friend by the hand.

‘You must see her. Sir,’ said Mr. Magnus; ‘this way, if you please. Excuse us for one instant, gentlemen.’ Hurrying on in this way, Mr. Peter Magnus drew Mr. Pickwick from the room. He paused at the next door in the passage, and tapped gently thereat.

‘Come in,’ said a female voice. And in they went.

‘Miss Witherfield,’ said Mr. Magnus, ‘allow me to introduce my very particular friend, Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick, I beg to make you known to Miss Witherfield.’

The lady was at the upper end of the room. As Mr. Pickwick bowed, he took his spectacles from his waistcoat pocket, and put them on; a process which he had no sooner gone through, than, uttering an exclamation of surprise, Mr. Pickwick retreated several paces, and the lady, with a half-suppressed scream, hid her face in her hands, and dropped into a chair; whereupon Mr. Peter Magnus was stricken motionless on the spot, and gazed from one to the other, with a countenance expressive of the extremities of horror and surprise.

This certainly was, to all appearance, very unaccountable behaviour; but the fact is, that Mr. Pickwick no sooner put on his spectacles, than he at once recognised in the future Mrs. Magnus the lady into whose room he had so unwarrantably intruded on the previous night; and the spectacles had no sooner crossed Mr. Pickwick’s nose, than the lady at once identified the countenance which she had seen surrounded by all the horrors of a nightcap. So the lady screamed, and Mr. Pickwick started.

‘Mr. Pickwick!’ exclaimed Mr. Magnus, lost in astonishment, ‘what is the meaning of this, Sir? What is the meaning of it, Sir?’ added Mr. Magnus, in a threatening, and a louder tone.

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, somewhat indignant at the very sudden manner in which Mr. Peter Magnus had conjugated himself into the imperative mood, ‘I decline answering that question.’

‘You decline it, Sir?’ said Mr. Magnus.

‘I do, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick; ‘I object to say anything which may compromise that lady, or awaken unpleasant recollections in her breast, without her consent and permission.’

‘Miss Witherfield,’ said Mr. Peter Magnus, ‘do you know this person?’

‘Know him!’ repeated the middle-aged lady, hesitating.

‘Yes, know him, ma’am; I said know him,’ replied Mr. Magnus, with ferocity.

‘I have seen him,’ replied the middle-aged lady.

‘Where?’ inquired Mr. Magnus, ‘where?’

‘That,’ said the middle-aged lady, rising from her seat, and averting her head—‘that I would not reveal for worlds.’

‘I understand you, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and respect your delicacy; it shall never be revealed by me depend upon it.’

‘Upon my word, ma’am,’ said Mr. Magnus, ‘considering the situation in which I am placed with regard to yourself, you carry this matter off with tolerable coolness—tolerable coolness, ma’am.’

‘Cruel Mr. Magnus!’ said the middle-aged lady; here she wept very copiously indeed.

‘Address your observations to me, sir,’ interposed Mr. Pickwick; ‘I alone am to blame, if anybody be.’

‘Oh! you alone are to blame, are you, sir?’ said Mr. Magnus; ‘I—I—see through this, sir. You repent of your determination now, do you?’

‘My determination!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Your determination, Sir. Oh! don’t stare at me, Sir,’ said Mr. Magnus; ‘I recollect your words last night, Sir. You came down here, sir, to expose the treachery and falsehood of an individual on whose truth and honour you had placed implicit reliance—eh?’ Here Mr. Peter Magnus indulged in a prolonged sneer; and taking off his green spectacles—which he probably found superfluous in his fit of jealousy—rolled his little eyes about, in a manner frightful to behold.

‘Eh?’ said Mr. Magnus; and then he repeated the sneer with increased effect. ‘But you shall answer it, Sir.’

‘Answer what?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Never mind, sir,’ replied Mr. Magnus, striding up and down the room. ‘Never mind.’

There must be something very comprehensive in this phrase of ‘Never mind,’ for we do not recollect to have ever witnessed a quarrel in the street, at a theatre, public room, or elsewhere, in which it has not been the standard reply to all belligerent inquiries. ‘Do you call yourself a gentleman, sir?’—‘Never mind, sir.’

Did I offer to say anything to the young woman, sir?’—‘Never mind, sir.’

Do you want your head knocked up against that wall, sir?’—‘Never mind, sir.’ It is observable, too, that there would appear to be some hidden taunt in this universal ‘Never mind,’ which rouses more indignation in the bosom of the individual addressed, than the most lavish abuse could possibly awaken.

We do not mean to assert that the application of this brevity to himself, struck exactly that indignation to Mr. Pickwick’s soul, which it would infallibly have roused in a vulgar breast. We merely record the fact that Mr. Pickwick opened the room door, and abruptly called out, ‘Tupman, come here!’

Mr. Tupman immediately presented himself, with a look of very considerable surprise.

‘Tupman,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘a secret of some delicacy, in which that lady is concerned, is the cause of a difference which has just arisen between this gentleman and myself. When I assure him, in your presence, that it has no relation to himself, and is not in any way connected with his affairs, I need hardly beg you to take notice that if he continue to dispute it, he expresses a doubt of my veracity, which I shall consider extremely insulting.’ As Mr. Pickwick said this, he looked encyclopedias at Mr. Peter Magnus.

Mr. Pickwick’s upright and honourable bearing, coupled with that force and energy of speech which so eminently distinguished him, would have carried conviction to any reasonable mind; but, unfortunately, at that particular moment, the mind of Mr. Peter Magnus was in anything but reasonable order. Consequently, instead of receiving Mr. Pickwick’s explanation as he ought to have done, he forthwith proceeded to work himself into a red-hot, scorching, consuming passion, and to talk about what was due to his own feelings, and all that sort of thing; adding force to his declamation by striding to and fro, and pulling his hair—amusements which he would vary occasionally, by shaking his fist in Mr. Pickwick’s philanthropic countenance.

Mr. Pickwick, in his turn, conscious of his own innocence and rectitude, and irritated by having unfortunately involved the middle-aged lady in such an unpleasant affair, was not so quietly disposed as was his wont. The consequence was, that words ran high, and voices higher; and at length Mr. Magnus told Mr. Pickwick he should hear from him; to which Mr. Pickwick replied, with laudable politeness, that the sooner he heard from him the better; whereupon the middle-aged lady rushed in terror from the room, out of which Mr. Tupman dragged Mr. Pickwick, leaving Mr. Peter Magnus to himself and meditation.

If the middle-aged lady had mingled much with the busy world, or had profited at all by the manners and customs of those who make the laws and set the fashions, she would have known that this sort of ferocity is the most harmless thing in nature; but as she had lived for the most part in the country, and never read the parliamentary debates, she was little versed in these particular refinements of civilised life. Accordingly, when she had gained her bedchamber, bolted herself in, and began to meditate on the scene she had just witnessed, the most terrific pictures of slaughter and destruction presented themselves to her imagination; among which, a full-length portrait of Mr. Peter Magnus borne home by four men, with the embellishment of a whole barrelful of bullets in his left side, was among the very least. The more the middle-aged lady meditated, the more terrified she became; and at length she determined to repair to the house of the principal magistrate of the town, and request him to secure the persons of Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman without delay.

To this decision the middle-aged lady was impelled by a variety of considerations, the chief of which was the incontestable proof it would afford of her devotion to Mr. Peter Magnus, and her anxiety for his safety. She was too well acquainted with his jealous temperament to venture the slightest allusion to the real cause of her agitation on beholding Mr. Pickwick; and she trusted to her own influence and power of persuasion with the little man, to quell his boisterous jealousy, supposing that Mr. Pickwick were removed, and no fresh quarrel could arise. Filled with these reflections, the middle-aged lady arrayed herself in her bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the mayor’s dwelling straightway.

Now George Nupkins, Esquire, the principal magistrate aforesaid, was as grand a personage as the fastest walker would find out, between sunrise and sunset, on the twenty-first of June, which being, according to the almanacs, the longest day in the whole year, would naturally afford him the longest period for his search. On this particular morning, Mr. Nupkins was in a state of the utmost excitement and irritation, for there had been a rebellion in the town; all the day-scholars at the largest day-school had conspired to break the windows of an obnoxious apple-seller, and had hooted the beadle and pelted the constabulary—an elderly gentleman in top-boots, who had been called out to repress the tumult, and who had been a peace-officer, man and boy, for half a century at least. And Mr. Nupkins was sitting in his easy-chair, frowning with majesty, and boiling with rage, when a lady was announced on pressing, private, and particular business. Mr. Nupkins looked calmly terrible, and commanded that the lady should be shown in; which command, like all the mandates of emperors, and magistrates, and other great potentates of the earth, was forthwith obeyed; and Miss Witherfield, interestingly agitated, was ushered in accordingly.

‘Muzzle!’ said the magistrate.

Muzzle was an undersized footman, with a long body and short legs.

‘Muzzle!’

Yes, your Worship.’

‘Place a chair, and leave the room.’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Now, ma’am, will you state your business?’ said the magistrate.

‘It is of a very painful kind, Sir,’ said Miss Witherfield.

‘Very likely, ma’am,’ said the magistrate. ‘Compose your feelings, ma’am.’ Here Mr. Nupkins looked benignant. ‘And then tell me what legal business brings you here, ma’am.’ Here the magistrate triumphed over the man; and he looked stern again.

‘It is very distressing to me, Sir, to give this information,’ said Miss Witherfield, ‘but I fear a duel is going to be fought here.’

‘Here, ma’am?’ said the magistrate. ‘Where, ma’am?’

‘In Ipswich.’

In Ipswich, ma’am! A duel in Ipswich!’ said the magistrate, perfectly aghast at the notion. ‘Impossible, ma’am; nothing of the kind can be contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Bless my soul, ma’am, are you aware of the activity of our local magistracy? Do you happen to have heard, ma’am, that I rushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May last, attended by only sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of falling a sacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude, prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, ma’am? I don’t think—I do not think,’ said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, ‘that any two men can have had the hardihood to plan such a breach of the peace, in this town.’

‘My information is, unfortunately, but too correct,’ said the middle-aged lady; ‘I was present at the quarrel.’

‘It’s a most extraordinary thing,’ said the astounded magistrate. ‘Muzzle!’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly.’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily-clad clerk, of middle age, entered the room.

‘Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate. ‘Mr. Jinks.’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Jinks.

‘This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of an intended duel in this town.’

Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled a dependent’s smile.

‘What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks?’ said the magistrate.

Mr. Jinks looked serious instantly.

‘Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate, ‘you’re a fool.’

Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top of his pen.

‘You may see something very comical in this information, Sir—but I can tell you this, Mr. Jinks, that you have very little to laugh at,’ said the magistrate.

The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware of the fact of his having very little indeed to be merry about; and, being ordered to take the lady’s information, shambled to a seat, and proceeded to write it down.

‘This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand?’ said the magistrate, when the statement was finished.

‘He is,’ said the middle-aged lady.

‘And the other rioter—what’s his name, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Tupman, Sir.’

Tupman is the second?’

‘Yes.’

‘The other principal, you say, has absconded, ma’am?’

‘Yes,’ replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough.

‘Very well,’ said the magistrate. ‘These are two cut-throats from London, who have come down here to destroy his Majesty’s population, thinking that at this distance from the capital, the arm of the law is weak and paralysed. They shall be made an example of. Draw up the warrants, Mr. Jinks. Muzzle!’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Is Grummer downstairs?’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Send him up.’

The obsequious Muzzle retired, and presently returned, introducing the elderly gentleman in the top-boots, who was chiefly remarkable for a bottle-nose, a hoarse voice, a snuff-coloured surtout, and a wandering eye.

‘Grummer,’ said the magistrate.

‘Your Wash-up.’

‘Is the town quiet now?’

‘Pretty well, your Wash-up,’ replied Grummer. ‘Pop’lar feeling has in a measure subsided, consekens o’ the boys having dispersed to cricket.’

‘Nothing but vigorous measures will do in these times, Grummer,’ said the magistrate, in a determined manner. ‘If the authority of the king’s officers is set at naught, we must have the riot act read. If the civil power cannot protect these windows, Grummer, the military must protect the civil power, and the windows too. I believe that is a maxim of the constitution, Mr. Jinks?’

Certainly, sir,’ said Jinks.

‘Very good,’ said the magistrate, signing the warrants. ‘Grummer, you will bring these persons before me, this afternoon. You will find them at the Great White Horse. You recollect the case of the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam, Grummer?’

Mr. Grummer intimated, by a retrospective shake of the head, that he should never forget it—as indeed it was not likely he would, so long as it continued to be cited daily.

‘This is even more unconstitutional,’ said the magistrate; ‘this is even a greater breach of the peace, and a grosser infringement of his Majesty’s prerogative. I believe duelling is one of his Majesty’s most undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Expressly stipulated in Magna Charta, sir,’ said Mr. Jinks.

‘One of the brightest jewels in the British crown, wrung from his Majesty by the barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks?’ said the magistrate.

‘Just so, Sir,’ replied Mr. Jinks.

‘Very well,’ said the magistrate, drawing himself up proudly, ‘it shall not be violated in this portion of his dominions. Grummer, procure assistance, and execute these warrants with as little delay as possible. Muzzle!’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Show the lady out.’

Miss Witherfield retired, deeply impressed with the magistrate’s learning and research; Mr. Nupkins retired to lunch; Mr. Jinks retired within himself—that being the only retirement he had, except the sofa-bedstead in the small parlour which was occupied by his landlady’s family in the daytime—and Mr. Grummer retired, to wipe out, by his mode of discharging his present commission, the insult which had been fastened upon himself, and the other representative of his Majesty—the beadle—in the course of the morning.

While these resolute and determined preparations for the conservation of the king’s peace were pending, Mr. Pickwick and his friends, wholly unconscious of the mighty events in progress, had sat quietly down to dinner; and very talkative and companionable they all were. Mr. Pickwick was in the very act of relating his adventure of the preceding night, to the great amusement of his followers, Mr. Tupman especially, when the door opened, and a somewhat forbidding countenance peeped into the room. The eyes in the forbidding countenance looked very earnestly at Mr. Pickwick, for several seconds, and were to all appearance satisfied with their investigation; for the body to which the forbidding countenance belonged, slowly brought itself into the apartment, and presented the form of an elderly individual in top-boots—not to keep the reader any longer in suspense, in short, the eyes were the wandering eyes of Mr. Grummer, and the body was the body of the same gentleman.

Mr. Grummer’s mode of proceeding was professional, but peculiar. His first act was to bolt the door on the inside; his second, to polish his head and countenance very carefully with a cotton handkerchief; his third, to place his hat, with the cotton handkerchief in it, on the nearest chair; and his fourth, to produce from the breast-pocket of his coat a short truncheon, surmounted by a brazen crown, with which he beckoned to Mr. Pickwick with a grave and ghost-like air.

Mr. Snodgrass was the first to break the astonished silence. He looked steadily at Mr. Grummer for a brief space, and then said emphatically, ‘This is a private room, Sir. A private room.’

Mr. Grummer shook his head, and replied, ‘No room’s private to his Majesty when the street door’s once passed. That’s law. Some people maintains that an Englishman’s house is his castle. That’s gammon.’

The Pickwickians gazed on each other with wondering eyes.

‘Which is Mr. Tupman?’ inquired Mr. Grummer. He had an intuitive perception of Mr. Pickwick; he knew him at once.

‘My name’s Tupman,’ said that gentleman.

‘My name’s Law,’ said Mr. Grummer.

‘What?’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘Law,’ replied Mr. Grummer—‘Law, civil power, and exekative; them’s my titles; here’s my authority. Blank Tupman, blank Pickwick—against the peace of our sufferin’ lord the king—stattit in the case made and purwided—and all regular. I apprehend you Pickwick! Tupman—the aforesaid.’

‘What do you mean by this insolence?’ said Mr. Tupman, starting up; ‘leave the room!’

‘Hollo,’ said Mr. Grummer, retreating very expeditiously to the door, and opening it an inch or two, ‘Dubbley.’

‘Well,’ said a deep voice from the passage.

‘Come for’ard, Dubbley.’

At the word of command, a dirty-faced man, something over six feet high, and stout in proportion, squeezed himself through the half-open door (making his face very red in the process), and entered the room.

‘Is the other specials outside, Dubbley?’ inquired Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley, who was a man of few words, nodded assent.

‘Order in the diwision under your charge, Dubbley,’ said Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley did as he was desired; and half a dozen men, each with a short truncheon and a brass crown, flocked into the room. Mr. Grummer pocketed his staff, and looked at Mr. Dubbley; Mr. Dubbley pocketed his staff and looked at the division; the division pocketed their staves and looked at Messrs. Tupman and Pickwick.

Mr. Pickwick and his followers rose as one man.

‘What is the meaning of this atrocious intrusion upon my privacy?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Who dares apprehend me?’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘What do you want here, scoundrels?’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Winkle said nothing, but he fixed his eyes on Grummer, and bestowed a look upon him, which, if he had had any feeling, must have pierced his brain. As it was, however, it had no visible effect on him whatever.

When the executive perceived that Mr. Pickwick and his friends were disposed to resist the authority of the law, they very significantly turned up their coat sleeves, as if knocking them down in the first instance, and taking them up afterwards, were a mere professional act which had only to be thought of to be done, as a matter of course. This demonstration was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He conferred a few moments with Mr. Tupman apart, and then signified his readiness to proceed to the mayor’s residence, merely begging the parties then and there assembled, to take notice, that it was his firm intention to resent this monstrous invasion of his privileges as an Englishman, the instant he was at liberty; whereat the parties then and there assembled laughed very heartily, with the single exception of Mr. Grummer, who seemed to consider that any slight cast upon the divine right of magistrates was a species of blasphemy not to be tolerated.

But when Mr. Pickwick had signified his readiness to bow to the laws of his country, and just when the waiters, and hostlers, and chambermaids, and post-boys, who had anticipated a delightful commotion from his threatened obstinacy, began to turn away, disappointed and disgusted, a difficulty arose which had not been foreseen. With every sentiment of veneration for the constituted authorities, Mr. Pickwick resolutely protested against making his appearance in the public streets, surrounded and guarded by the officers of justice, like a common criminal. Mr. Grummer, in the then disturbed state of public feeling (for it was half-holiday, and the boys had not yet gone home), as resolutely protested against walking on the opposite side of the way, and taking Mr. Pickwick’s parole that he would go straight to the magistrate’s; and both Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman as strenuously objected to the expense of a post-coach, which was the only respectable conveyance that could be obtained. The dispute ran high, and the dilemma lasted long; and just as the executive were on the point of overcoming Mr. Pickwick’s objection to walking to the magistrate’s, by the trite expedient of carrying him thither, it was recollected that there stood in the inn yard, an old sedan-chair, which, having been originally built for a gouty gentleman with funded property, would hold Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman, at least as conveniently as a modern post-chaise. The chair was hired, and brought into the hall; Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman squeezed themselves inside, and pulled down the blinds; a couple of chairmen were speedily found; and the procession started in grand order. The specials surrounded the body of the vehicle; Mr. Grummer and Mr. Dubbley marched triumphantly in front; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle walked arm-in-arm behind; and the unsoaped of Ipswich brought up the rear.

The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a very indistinct notion of the nature of the offence, could not but be much edified and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strong arm of the law, coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upon two offenders from the metropolis itself; the mighty engine was directed by their own magistrate, and worked by their own officers; and both the criminals, by their united efforts, were securely shut up, in the narrow compass of one sedan-chair. Many were the expressions of approval and admiration which greeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand; loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidst these united testimonials of public approbation, the procession moved slowly and majestically along.

Mr. Weller, habited in his morning jacket, with the black calico sleeves, was returning in a rather desponding state from an unsuccessful survey of the mysterious house with the green gate, when, raising his eyes, he beheld a crowd pouring down the street, surrounding an object which had very much the appearance of a sedan-chair. Willing to divert his thoughts from the failure of his enterprise, he stepped aside to see the crowd pass; and finding that they were cheering away, very much to their own satisfaction, forthwith began (by way of raising his spirits) to cheer too, with all his might and main.

Mr. Grummer passed, and Mr. Dubbley passed, and the sedan passed, and the bodyguard of specials passed, and Sam was still responding to the enthusiastic cheers of the mob, and waving his hat about as if he were in the very last extreme of the wildest joy (though, of course, he had not the faintest idea of the matter in hand), when he was suddenly stopped by the unexpected appearance of Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass.

‘What’s the row, gen’l’m’n?’ cried Sam. ‘Who have they got in this here watch-box in mournin’?’

Both gentlemen replied together, but their words were lost in the tumult.

‘Who is it?’ cried Sam again.

Once more was a joint reply returned; and, though the words were inaudible, Sam saw by the motion of the two pairs of lips that they had uttered the magic word ‘Pickwick.’

This was enough. In another minute Mr. Weller had made his way through the crowd, stopped the chairmen, and confronted the portly Grummer.

‘Hollo, old gen’l’m’n!’ said Sam. ‘Who have you got in this here conweyance?’

‘Stand back,’ said Mr. Grummer, whose dignity, like the dignity of a great many other men, had been wondrously augmented by a little popularity.

‘Knock him down, if he don’t,’ said Mr. Dubbley.

‘I’m wery much obliged to you, old gen’l’m’n,’ replied Sam, ‘for consulting my conwenience, and I’m still more obliged to the other gen’l’m’n, who looks as if he’d just escaped from a giant’s carrywan, for his wery ‘andsome suggestion; but I should prefer your givin’ me a answer to my question, if it’s all the same to you.—How are you, Sir?’ This last observation was addressed with a patronising air to Mr. Pickwick, who was peeping through the front window.

Mr. Grummer, perfectly speechless with indignation, dragged the truncheon with the brass crown from its particular pocket, and flourished it before Sam’s eyes.

‘Ah,’ said Sam, ‘it’s wery pretty, ‘specially the crown, which is uncommon like the real one.’

‘Stand back!’ said the outraged Mr. Grummer. By way of adding force to the command, he thrust the brass emblem of royalty into Sam’s neckcloth with one hand, and seized Sam’s collar with the other—a compliment which Mr. Weller returned by knocking him down out of hand, having previously with the utmost consideration, knocked down a chairman for him to lie upon.

Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this display of Mr. Weller’s valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall than he made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to him and Mr. Winkle to say, that they did not make the slightest attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller; who, after a most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The procession then reformed; the chairmen resumed their stations; and the march was re-commenced.

Mr. Pickwick’s indignation during the whole of this proceeding was beyond all bounds. He could just see Sam upsetting the specials, and flying about in every direction; and that was all he could see, for the sedan doors wouldn’t open, and the blinds wouldn’t pull up. At length, with the assistance of Mr. Tupman, he managed to push open the roof; and mounting on the seat, and steadying himself as well as he could, by placing his hand on that gentleman’s shoulder, Mr. Pickwick proceeded to address the multitude; to dwell upon the unjustifiable manner in which he had been treated; and to call upon them to take notice that his servant had been first assaulted. In this order they reached the magistrate’s house; the chairmen trotting, the prisoners following, Mr. Pickwick oratorising, and the crowd shouting.






CHAPTER XXV. SHOWING, AMONG A VARIETY OF PLEASANT MATTERS, HOW MAJESTIC AND IMPARTIAL MR. NUPKINS WAS; AND HOW MR. WELLER RETURNED MR. JOB TROTTER’S SHUTTLECOCK AS HEAVILY AS IT CAME—WITH ANOTHER MATTER, WHICH WILL BE FOUND IN ITS PLACE

Violent was Mr. Weller’s indignation as he was borne along; numerous were the allusions to the personal appearance and demeanour of Mr. Grummer and his companion; and valorous were the defiances to any six of the gentlemen present, in which he vented his dissatisfaction. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle listened with gloomy respect to the torrent of eloquence which their leader poured forth from the sedan-chair, and the rapid course of which not all Mr. Tupman’s earnest entreaties to have the lid of the vehicle closed, were able to check for an instant. But Mr. Weller’s anger quickly gave way to curiosity when the procession turned down the identical courtyard in which he had met with the runaway Job Trotter; and curiosity was exchanged for a feeling of the most gleeful astonishment, when the all-important Mr. Grummer, commanding the sedan-bearers to halt, advanced with dignified and portentous steps to the very green gate from which Job Trotter had emerged, and gave a mighty pull at the bell-handle which hung at the side thereof. The ring was answered by a very smart and pretty-faced servant-girl, who, after holding up her hands in astonishment at the rebellious appearance of the prisoners, and the impassioned language of Mr. Pickwick, summoned Mr. Muzzle. Mr. Muzzle opened one half of the carriage gate, to admit the sedan, the captured ones, and the specials; and immediately slammed it in the faces of the mob, who, indignant at being excluded, and anxious to see what followed, relieved their feelings by kicking at the gate and ringing the bell, for an hour or two afterwards. In this amusement they all took part by turns, except three or four fortunate individuals, who, having discovered a grating in the gate, which commanded a view of nothing, stared through it with the indefatigable perseverance with which people will flatten their noses against the front windows of a chemist’s shop, when a drunken man, who has been run over by a dog-cart in the street, is undergoing a surgical inspection in the back-parlour.

At the foot of a flight of steps, leading to the house door, which was guarded on either side by an American aloe in a green tub, the sedan-chair stopped. Mr. Pickwick and his friends were conducted into the hall, whence, having been previously announced by Muzzle, and ordered in by Mr. Nupkins, they were ushered into the worshipful presence of that public-spirited officer.

The scene was an impressive one, well calculated to strike terror to the hearts of culprits, and to impress them with an adequate idea of the stern majesty of the law. In front of a big book-case, in a big chair, behind a big table, and before a big volume, sat Mr. Nupkins, looking a full size larger than any one of them, big as they were. The table was adorned with piles of papers; and above the farther end of it, appeared the head and shoulders of Mr. Jinks, who was busily engaged in looking as busy as possible. The party having all entered, Muzzle carefully closed the door, and placed himself behind his master’s chair to await his orders. Mr. Nupkins threw himself back with thrilling solemnity, and scrutinised the faces of his unwilling visitors.

‘Now, Grummer, who is that person?’ said Mr. Nupkins, pointing to Mr. Pickwick, who, as the spokesman of his friends, stood hat in hand, bowing with the utmost politeness and respect.

‘This here’s Pickvick, your Wash-up,’ said Grummer.

‘Come, none o’ that ‘ere, old Strike-a-light,’ interposed Mr. Weller, elbowing himself into the front rank. ‘Beg your pardon, sir, but this here officer o’ yourn in the gambooge tops, ‘ull never earn a decent livin’ as a master o’ the ceremonies any vere. This here, sir’ continued Mr. Weller, thrusting Grummer aside, and addressing the magistrate with pleasant familiarity, ‘this here is S. Pickvick, Esquire; this here’s Mr. Tupman; that ‘ere’s Mr. Snodgrass; and farder on, next him on the t’other side, Mr. Winkle—all wery nice gen’l’m’n, Sir, as you’ll be wery happy to have the acquaintance on; so the sooner you commits these here officers o’ yourn to the tread-mill for a month or two, the sooner we shall begin to be on a pleasant understanding. Business first, pleasure arterwards, as King Richard the Third said when he stabbed the t’other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the babbies.’

At the conclusion of this address, Mr. Weller brushed his hat with his right elbow, and nodded benignly to Jinks, who had heard him throughout with unspeakable awe.

‘Who is this man, Grummer?’ said the magistrate.

‘Wery desp’rate ch’racter, your Wash-up,’ replied Grummer. ‘He attempted to rescue the prisoners, and assaulted the officers; so we took him into custody, and brought him here.’

‘You did quite right,’ replied the magistrate. ‘He is evidently a desperate ruffian.’

‘He is my servant, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick angrily.

‘Oh! he is your servant, is he?’ said Mr. Nupkins. ‘A conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice, and murder its officers. Pickwick’s servant. Put that down, Mr. Jinks.’

Mr. Jinks did so.

‘What’s your name, fellow?’ thundered Mr. Nupkins.

‘Veller,’ replied Sam.

‘A very good name for the Newgate Calendar,’ said Mr. Nupkins.

This was a joke; so Jinks, Grummer, Dubbley, all the specials, and Muzzle, went into fits of laughter of five minutes’ duration.

‘Put down his name, Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate.

‘Two L’s, old feller,’ said Sam.

Here an unfortunate special laughed again, whereupon the magistrate threatened to commit him instantly. It is a dangerous thing to laugh at the wrong man, in these cases.

‘Where do you live?’ said the magistrate.

‘Vere ever I can,’ replied Sam.

‘Put down that, Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate, who was fast rising into a rage.

‘Score it under,’ said Sam.

‘He is a vagabond, Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate. ‘He is a vagabond on his own statement,—is he not, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, Sir.’

‘Then I’ll commit him—I’ll commit him as such,’ said Mr. Nupkins.

‘This is a wery impartial country for justice, ‘said Sam.’ There ain’t a magistrate goin’ as don’t commit himself twice as he commits other people.’

At this sally another special laughed, and then tried to look so supernaturally solemn, that the magistrate detected him immediately.

‘Grummer,’ said Mr. Nupkins, reddening with passion, ‘how dare you select such an inefficient and disreputable person for a special constable, as that man? How dare you do it, Sir?’

‘I am very sorry, your Wash-up,’ stammered Grummer.

‘Very sorry!’ said the furious magistrate. ‘You shall repent of this neglect of duty, Mr. Grummer; you shall be made an example of. Take that fellow’s staff away. He’s drunk. You’re drunk, fellow.’

‘I am not drunk, your Worship,’ said the man.

‘You are drunk,’ returned the magistrate. ‘How dare you say you are not drunk, Sir, when I say you are? Doesn’t he smell of spirits, Grummer?’

‘Horrid, your Wash-up,’ replied Grummer, who had a vague impression that there was a smell of rum somewhere.

‘I knew he did,’ said Mr. Nupkins. ‘I saw he was drunk when he first came into the room, by his excited eye. Did you observe his excited eye, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, Sir.’

‘I haven’t touched a drop of spirits this morning,’ said the man, who was as sober a fellow as need be.

‘How dare you tell me a falsehood?’ said Mr. Nupkins. ‘Isn’t he drunk at this moment, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, Sir,’ replied Jinks.

‘Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate, ‘I shall commit that man for contempt. Make out his committal, Mr. Jinks.’

And committed the special would have been, only Jinks, who was the magistrate’s adviser (having had a legal education of three years in a country attorney’s office), whispered the magistrate that he thought it wouldn’t do; so the magistrate made a speech, and said, that in consideration of the special’s family, he would merely reprimand and discharge him. Accordingly, the special was abused, vehemently, for a quarter of an hour, and sent about his business; and Grummer, Dubbley, Muzzle, and all the other specials, murmured their admiration of the magnanimity of Mr. Nupkins.

‘Now, Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate, ‘swear Grummer.’

Grummer was sworn directly; but as Grummer wandered, and Mr. Nupkins’s dinner was nearly ready, Mr. Nupkins cut the matter short, by putting leading questions to Grummer, which Grummer answered as nearly in the affirmative as he could. So the examination went off, all very smooth and comfortable, and two assaults were proved against Mr. Weller, and a threat against Mr. Winkle, and a push against Mr. Snodgrass. When all this was done to the magistrate’s satisfaction, the magistrate and Mr. Jinks consulted in whispers.

The consultation having lasted about ten minutes, Mr. Jinks retired to his end of the table; and the magistrate, with a preparatory cough, drew himself up in his chair, and was proceeding to commence his address, when Mr. Pickwick interposed.

‘I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting you,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but before you proceed to express, and act upon, any opinion you may have formed on the statements which have been made here, I must claim my right to be heard so far as I am personally concerned.’

‘Hold your tongue, Sir,’ said the magistrate peremptorily.

‘I must submit to you, Sir—’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Hold your tongue, sir,’ interposed the magistrate, ‘or I shall order an officer to remove you.’

‘You may order your officers to do whatever you please, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘and I have no doubt, from the specimen I have had of the subordination preserved amongst them, that whatever you order, they will execute, Sir; but I shall take the liberty, Sir, of claiming my right to be heard, until I am removed by force.’

‘Pickvick and principle!’ exclaimed Mr. Weller, in a very audible voice.

‘Sam, be quiet,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Dumb as a drum vith a hole in it, Sir,’ replied Sam.

Mr. Nupkins looked at Mr. Pickwick with a gaze of intense astonishment, at his displaying such unwonted temerity; and was apparently about to return a very angry reply, when Mr. Jinks pulled him by the sleeve, and whispered something in his ear. To this, the magistrate returned a half-audible answer, and then the whispering was renewed. Jinks was evidently remonstrating.

At length the magistrate, gulping down, with a very bad grace, his disinclination to hear anything more, turned to Mr. Pickwick, and said sharply, ‘What do you want to say?’

‘First,’ said Mr. Pickwick, sending a look through his spectacles, under which even Nupkins quailed, ‘first, I wish to know what I and my friend have been brought here for?’

‘Must I tell him?’ whispered the magistrate to Jinks.

‘I think you had better, sir,’ whispered Jinks to the magistrate.

‘An information has been sworn before me,’ said the magistrate, ‘that it is apprehended you are going to fight a duel, and that the other man, Tupman, is your aider and abettor in it. Therefore—eh, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, sir.’

‘Therefore, I call upon you both, to—I think that’s the course, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, Sir.’

‘To—to—what, Mr. Jinks?’ said the magistrate pettishly.

‘To find bail, sir.’

‘Yes. Therefore, I call upon you both—as I was about to say when I was interrupted by my clerk—to find bail.’

Good bail,’ whispered Mr. Jinks.

‘I shall require good bail,’ said the magistrate.

‘Town’s-people,’ whispered Jinks.

‘They must be townspeople,’ said the magistrate.

‘Fifty pounds each,’ whispered Jinks, ‘and householders, of course.’

‘I shall require two sureties of fifty pounds each,’ said the magistrate aloud, with great dignity, ‘and they must be householders, of course.’

‘But bless my heart, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, who, together with Mr. Tupman, was all amazement and indignation; ‘we are perfect strangers in this town. I have as little knowledge of any householders here, as I have intention of fighting a duel with anybody.’

‘I dare say,’ replied the magistrate, ‘I dare say—don’t you, Mr. Jinks?’

‘Certainly, Sir.’

‘Have you anything more to say?’ inquired the magistrate.

Mr. Pickwick had a great deal more to say, which he would no doubt have said, very little to his own advantage, or the magistrate’s satisfaction, if he had not, the moment he ceased speaking, been pulled by the sleeve by Mr. Weller, with whom he was immediately engaged in so earnest a conversation, that he suffered the magistrate’s inquiry to pass wholly unnoticed. Mr. Nupkins was not the man to ask a question of the kind twice over; and so, with another preparatory cough, he proceeded, amidst the reverential and admiring silence of the constables, to pronounce his decision.

He should fine Weller two pounds for the first assault, and three pounds for the second. He should fine Winkle two pounds, and Snodgrass one pound, besides requiring them to enter into their own recognisances to keep the peace towards all his Majesty’s subjects, and especially towards his liege servant, Daniel Grummer. Pickwick and Tupman he had already held to bail.

Immediately on the magistrate ceasing to speak, Mr. Pickwick, with a smile mantling on his again good-humoured countenance, stepped forward, and said—

‘I beg the magistrate’s pardon, but may I request a few minutes’ private conversation with him, on a matter of deep importance to himself?’

‘What?’ said the magistrate. Mr. Pickwick repeated his request.

‘This is a most extraordinary request,’ said the magistrate. ‘A private interview?’

‘A private interview,’ replied Mr. Pickwick firmly; ‘only, as a part of the information which I wish to communicate is derived from my servant, I should wish him to be present.’

The magistrate looked at Mr. Jinks; Mr. Jinks looked at the magistrate; the officers looked at each other in amazement. Mr. Nupkins turned suddenly pale. Could the man Weller, in a moment of remorse, have divulged some secret conspiracy for his assassination? It was a dreadful thought. He was a public man; and he turned paler, as he thought of Julius Caesar and Mr. Perceval.

The magistrate looked at Mr. Pickwick again, and beckoned Mr. Jinks.

‘What do you think of this request, Mr. Jinks?’ murmured Mr. Nupkins.

Mr. Jinks, who didn’t exactly know what to think of it, and was afraid he might offend, smiled feebly, after a dubious fashion, and, screwing up the corners of his mouth, shook his head slowly from side to side.

‘Mr. Jinks,’ said the magistrate gravely, ‘you are an ass.’

At this little expression of opinion, Mr. Jinks smiled again—rather more feebly than before—and edged himself, by degrees, back into his own corner.

Mr. Nupkins debated the matter within himself for a few seconds, and then, rising from his chair, and requesting Mr. Pickwick and Sam to follow him, led the way into a small room which opened into the justice-parlour. Desiring Mr. Pickwick to walk to the upper end of the little apartment, and holding his hand upon the half-closed door, that he might be able to effect an immediate escape, in case there was the least tendency to a display of hostilities, Mr. Nupkins expressed his readiness to hear the communication, whatever it might be.

‘I will come to the point at once, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘it affects yourself and your credit materially. I have every reason to believe, Sir, that you are harbouring in your house a gross impostor!’

‘Two,’ interrupted Sam. ‘Mulberry agin all natur, for tears and willainny!’

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘if I am to render myself intelligible to this gentleman, I must beg you to control your feelings.’

‘Wery sorry, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘but when I think o’ that ‘ere Job, I can’t help opening the walve a inch or two.’

‘In one word, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘is my servant right in suspecting that a certain Captain Fitz-Marshall is in the habit of visiting here? Because,’ added Mr. Pickwick, as he saw that Mr. Nupkins was about to offer a very indignant interruption, ‘because if he be, I know that person to be a—’

‘Hush, hush,’ said Mr. Nupkins, closing the door. ‘Know him to be what, Sir?’

‘An unprincipled adventurer—a dishonourable character—a man who preys upon society, and makes easily-deceived people his dupes, Sir; his absurd, his foolish, his wretched dupes, Sir,’ said the excited Mr. Pickwick.

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Nupkins, turning very red, and altering his whole manner directly. ‘Dear me, Mr.—’

‘Pickvick,’ said Sam.

‘Pickwick,’ said the magistrate, ‘dear me, Mr. Pickwick—pray take a seat—you cannot mean this? Captain Fitz-Marshall!’

‘Don’t call him a cap’en,’ said Sam, ‘nor Fitz-Marshall neither; he ain’t neither one nor t’other. He’s a strolling actor, he is, and his name’s Jingle; and if ever there was a wolf in a mulberry suit, that ‘ere Job Trotter’s him.’

‘It is very true, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, replying to the magistrate’s look of amazement; ‘my only business in this town, is to expose the person of whom we now speak.’

Mr. Pickwick proceeded to pour into the horror-stricken ear of Mr. Nupkins, an abridged account of all Mr. Jingle’s atrocities. He related how he had first met him; how he had eloped with Miss Wardle; how he had cheerfully resigned the lady for a pecuniary consideration; how he had entrapped himself into a lady’s boarding-school at midnight; and how he (Mr. Pickwick) now felt it his duty to expose his assumption of his present name and rank.

As the narrative proceeded, all the warm blood in the body of Mr. Nupkins tingled up into the very tips of his ears. He had picked up the captain at a neighbouring race-course. Charmed with his long list of aristocratic acquaintance, his extensive travel, and his fashionable demeanour, Mrs. Nupkins and Miss Nupkins had exhibited Captain Fitz-Marshall, and quoted Captain Fitz-Marshall, and hurled Captain Fitz-Marshall at the devoted heads of their select circle of acquaintance, until their bosom friends, Mrs. Porkenham and the Misses Porkenhams, and Mr. Sidney Porkenham, were ready to burst with jealousy and despair. And now, to hear, after all, that he was a needy adventurer, a strolling player, and if not a swindler, something so very like it, that it was hard to tell the difference! Heavens! what would the Porkenhams say! What would be the triumph of Mr. Sidney Porkenham when he found that his addresses had been slighted for such a rival! How should he, Nupkins, meet the eye of old Porkenham at the next quarter-sessions! And what a handle would it be for the opposition magisterial party if the story got abroad!

‘But after all,’ said Mr. Nupkins, brightening for a moment, after a long pause; ‘after all, this is a mere statement. Captain Fitz-Marshall is a man of very engaging manners, and, I dare say, has many enemies. What proof have you of the truth of these representations?’

‘Confront me with him,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘that is all I ask, and all I require. Confront him with me and my friends here; you will want no further proof.’

‘Why,’ said Mr. Nupkins, ‘that might be very easily done, for he will be here to-night, and then there would be no occasion to make the matter public, just—just—for the young man’s own sake, you know. I—I—should like to consult Mrs. Nupkins on the propriety of the step, in the first instance, though. At all events, Mr. Pickwick, we must despatch this legal business before we can do anything else. Pray step back into the next room.’

Into the next room they went.

‘Grummer,’ said the magistrate, in an awful voice.

‘Your Wash-up,’ replied Grummer, with the smile of a favourite.

‘Come, come, Sir,’ said the magistrate sternly, ‘don’t let me see any of this levity here. It is very unbecoming, and I can assure you that you have very little to smile at. Was the account you gave me just now strictly true? Now be careful, sir!’

Your Wash-up,’ stammered Grummer, ‘I-’

‘Oh, you are confused, are you?’ said the magistrate. ‘Mr. Jinks, you observe this confusion?’

‘Certainly, Sir,’ replied Jinks.

‘Now,’ said the magistrate, ‘repeat your statement, Grummer, and again I warn you to be careful. Mr. Jinks, take his words down.’

The unfortunate Grummer proceeded to re-state his complaint, but, what between Mr. Jinks’s taking down his words, and the magistrate’s taking them up, his natural tendency to rambling, and his extreme confusion, he managed to get involved, in something under three minutes, in such a mass of entanglement and contradiction, that Mr. Nupkins at once declared he didn’t believe him. So the fines were remitted, and Mr. Jinks found a couple of bail in no time. And all these solemn proceedings having been satisfactorily concluded, Mr. Grummer was ignominiously ordered out—an awful instance of the instability of human greatness, and the uncertain tenure of great men’s favour.

Mrs. Nupkins was a majestic female in a pink gauze turban and a light brown wig. Miss Nupkins possessed all her mamma’s haughtiness without the turban, and all her ill-nature without the wig; and whenever the exercise of these two amiable qualities involved mother and daughter in some unpleasant dilemma, as they not infrequently did, they both concurred in laying the blame on the shoulders of Mr. Nupkins. Accordingly, when Mr. Nupkins sought Mrs. Nupkins, and detailed the communication which had been made by Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Nupkins suddenly recollected that she had always expected something of the kind; that she had always said it would be so; that her advice was never taken; that she really did not know what Mr. Nupkins supposed she was; and so forth.

‘The idea!’ said Miss Nupkins, forcing a tear of very scanty proportions into the corner of each eye; ‘the idea of my being made such a fool of!’

‘Ah! you may thank your papa, my dear,’ said Mrs. Nupkins; ‘how I have implored and begged that man to inquire into the captain’s family connections; how I have urged and entreated him to take some decisive step! I am quite certain nobody would believe it—quite.’

‘But, my dear,’ said Mr. Nupkins.

‘Don’t talk to me, you aggravating thing, don’t!’ said Mrs. Nupkins.

‘My love,’ said Mr. Nupkins, ‘you professed yourself very fond of Captain Fitz-Marshall. You have constantly asked him here, my dear, and you have lost no opportunity of introducing him elsewhere.’

‘Didn’t I say so, Henrietta?’ cried Mrs. Nupkins, appealing to her daughter with the air of a much-injured female. ‘Didn’t I say that your papa would turn round and lay all this at my door? Didn’t I say so?’ Here Mrs. Nupkins sobbed.

‘Oh, pa!’ remonstrated Miss Nupkins. And here she sobbed too.

‘Isn’t it too much, when he has brought all this disgrace and ridicule upon us, to taunt me with being the cause of it?’ exclaimed Mrs. Nupkins.

‘How can we ever show ourselves in society!’ said Miss Nupkins.

‘How can we face the Porkenhams?’ cried Mrs. Nupkins.

‘Or the Griggs!’ cried Miss Nupkins.

‘Or the Slummintowkens!’ cried Mrs. Nupkins. ‘But what does your papa care! What is it to him!’ At this dreadful reflection, Mrs. Nupkins wept mental anguish, and Miss Nupkins followed on the same side.

Mrs. Nupkins’s tears continued to gush forth, with great velocity, until she had gained a little time to think the matter over; when she decided, in her own mind, that the best thing to do would be to ask Mr. Pickwick and his friends to remain until the captain’s arrival, and then to give Mr. Pickwick the opportunity he sought. If it appeared that he had spoken truly, the captain could be turned out of the house without noising the matter abroad, and they could easily account to the Porkenhams for his disappearance, by saying that he had been appointed, through the Court influence of his family, to the governor-generalship of Sierra Leone, of Saugur Point, or any other of those salubrious climates which enchant Europeans so much, that when they once get there, they can hardly ever prevail upon themselves to come back again.

When Mrs. Nupkins dried up her tears, Miss Nupkins dried up hers, and Mr. Nupkins was very glad to settle the matter as Mrs. Nupkins had proposed. So Mr. Pickwick and his friends, having washed off all marks of their late encounter, were introduced to the ladies, and soon afterwards to their dinner; and Mr. Weller, whom the magistrate, with his peculiar sagacity, had discovered in half an hour to be one of the finest fellows alive, was consigned to the care and guardianship of Mr. Muzzle, who was specially enjoined to take him below, and make much of him.

‘How de do, sir?’ said Mr. Muzzle, as he conducted Mr. Weller down the kitchen stairs.

‘Why, no considerable change has taken place in the state of my system, since I see you cocked up behind your governor’s chair in the parlour, a little vile ago,’ replied Sam.

‘You will excuse my not taking more notice of you then,’ said Mr. Muzzle. ‘You see, master hadn’t introduced us, then. Lord, how fond he is of you, Mr. Weller, to be sure!’

‘Ah!’ said Sam, ‘what a pleasant chap he is!’

‘Ain’t he?’ replied Mr. Muzzle.

‘So much humour,’ said Sam.

‘And such a man to speak,’ said Mr. Muzzle. ‘How his ideas flow, don’t they?’

‘Wonderful,’ replied Sam; ‘they comes a-pouring out, knocking each other’s heads so fast, that they seems to stun one another; you hardly know what he’s arter, do you?’

That’s the great merit of his style of speaking,’ rejoined Mr. Muzzle. ‘Take care of the last step, Mr. Weller. Would you like to wash your hands, sir, before we join the ladies? Here’s a sink, with the water laid on, Sir, and a clean jack towel behind the door.’

‘Ah! perhaps I may as well have a rinse,’ replied Mr. Weller, applying plenty of yellow soap to the towel, and rubbing away till his face shone again. ‘How many ladies are there?’

‘Only two in our kitchen,’ said Mr. Muzzle; ‘cook and ‘ouse-maid. We keep a boy to do the dirty work, and a gal besides, but they dine in the wash’us.’

‘Oh, they dines in the wash’us, do they?’ said Mr. Weller.

‘Yes,’ replied Mr. Muzzle, ‘we tried ‘em at our table when they first come, but we couldn’t keep ‘em. The gal’s manners is dreadful vulgar; and the boy breathes so very hard while he’s eating, that we found it impossible to sit at table with him.’

‘Young grampus!’ said Mr. Weller.

‘Oh, dreadful,’ rejoined Mr. Muzzle; ‘but that is the worst of country service, Mr. Weller; the juniors is always so very savage. This way, sir, if you please, this way.’

Preceding Mr. Weller, with the utmost politeness, Mr. Muzzle conducted him into the kitchen.

‘Mary,’ said Mr. Muzzle to the pretty servant-girl, ‘this is Mr. Weller; a gentleman as master has sent down, to be made as comfortable as possible.’

‘And your master’s a knowin’ hand, and has just sent me to the right place,’ said Mr. Weller, with a glance of admiration at Mary. ‘If I wos master o’ this here house, I should alvays find the materials for comfort vere Mary wos.’

Lor, Mr. Weller!’ said Mary blushing.

‘Well, I never!’ ejaculated the cook.

‘Bless me, cook, I forgot you,’ said Mr. Muzzle. ‘Mr. Weller, let me introduce you.’

‘How are you, ma’am?’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Wery glad to see you, indeed, and hope our acquaintance may be a long ‘un, as the gen’l’m’n said to the fi’ pun’ note.’

When this ceremony of introduction had been gone through, the cook and Mary retired into the back kitchen to titter, for ten minutes; then returning, all giggles and blushes, they sat down to dinner.

Mr. Weller’s easy manners and conversational powers had such irresistible influence with his new friends, that before the dinner was half over, they were on a footing of perfect intimacy, and in possession of a full account of the delinquency of Job Trotter.

‘I never could a-bear that Job,’ said Mary.

‘No more you never ought to, my dear,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘Why not?’ inquired Mary.

‘’Cos ugliness and svindlin’ never ought to be formiliar with elegance and wirtew,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Ought they, Mr. Muzzle?’

‘Not by no means,’ replied that gentleman.

Here Mary laughed, and said the cook had made her; and the cook laughed, and said she hadn’t.

‘I ha’n’t got a glass,’ said Mary.

‘Drink with me, my dear,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Put your lips to this here tumbler, and then I can kiss you by deputy.’

‘For shame, Mr. Weller!’ said Mary.

‘What’s a shame, my dear?’

‘Talkin’ in that way.’

‘Nonsense; it ain’t no harm. It’s natur; ain’t it, cook?’

‘Don’t ask me, imperence,’ replied the cook, in a high state of delight; and hereupon the cook and Mary laughed again, till what between the beer, and the cold meat, and the laughter combined, the latter young lady was brought to the verge of choking—an alarming crisis from which she was only recovered by sundry pats on the back, and other necessary attentions, most delicately administered by Mr. Samuel Weller.

In the midst of all this jollity and conviviality, a loud ring was heard at the garden gate, to which the young gentleman who took his meals in the wash-house, immediately responded. Mr. Weller was in the height of his attentions to the pretty house-maid; Mr. Muzzle was busy doing the honours of the table; and the cook had just paused to laugh, in the very act of raising a huge morsel to her lips; when the kitchen door opened, and in walked Mr. Job Trotter.

We have said in walked Mr. Job Trotter, but the statement is not distinguished by our usual scrupulous adherence to fact. The door opened and Mr. Trotter appeared. He would have walked in, and was in the very act of doing so, indeed, when catching sight of Mr. Weller, he involuntarily shrank back a pace or two, and stood gazing on the unexpected scene before him, perfectly motionless with amazement and terror.

‘Here he is!’ said Sam, rising with great glee. ‘Why we were that wery moment a-speaking o’ you. How are you? Where have you been? Come in.’

Laying his hand on the mulberry collar of the unresisting Job, Mr. Weller dragged him into the kitchen; and, locking the door, handed the key to Mr. Muzzle, who very coolly buttoned it up in a side pocket.

‘Well, here’s a game!’ cried Sam. ‘Only think o’ my master havin’ the pleasure o’ meeting yourn upstairs, and me havin’ the joy o’ meetin’ you down here. How are you gettin’ on, and how is the chandlery bis’ness likely to do? Well, I am so glad to see you. How happy you look. It’s quite a treat to see you; ain’t it, Mr. Muzzle?’

‘Quite,’ said Mr. Muzzle.

‘So cheerful he is!’ said Sam.

‘In such good spirits!’ said Muzzle.

‘And so glad to see us—that makes it so much more comfortable,’ said Sam. ‘Sit down; sit down.’

Mr. Trotter suffered himself to be forced into a chair by the fireside. He cast his small eyes, first on Mr. Weller, and then on Mr. Muzzle, but said nothing.

‘Well, now,’ said Sam, ‘afore these here ladies, I should jest like to ask you, as a sort of curiosity, whether you don’t consider yourself as nice and well-behaved a young gen’l’m’n, as ever used a pink check pocket-handkerchief, and the number four collection?’

‘And as was ever a-going to be married to a cook,’ said that lady indignantly. ‘The willin!’

‘And leave off his evil ways, and set up in the chandlery line arterwards,’ said the housemaid.

‘Now, I’ll tell you what it is, young man,’ said Mr. Muzzle solemnly, enraged at the last two allusions, ‘this here lady (pointing to the cook) keeps company with me; and when you presume, Sir, to talk of keeping chandlers’ shops with her, you injure me in one of the most delicatest points in which one man can injure another. Do you understand that, Sir?’

Here Mr. Muzzle, who had a great notion of his eloquence, in which he imitated his master, paused for a reply.

But Mr. Trotter made no reply. So Mr. Muzzle proceeded in a solemn manner—

‘It’s very probable, sir, that you won’t be wanted upstairs for several minutes, Sir, because my master is at this moment particularly engaged in settling the hash of your master, Sir; and therefore you’ll have leisure, Sir, for a little private talk with me, Sir. Do you understand that, Sir?’

Mr. Muzzle again paused for a reply; and again Mr. Trotter disappointed him.

‘Well, then,’ said Mr. Muzzle, ‘I’m very sorry to have to explain myself before ladies, but the urgency of the case will be my excuse. The back kitchen’s empty, Sir. If you will step in there, Sir, Mr. Weller will see fair, and we can have mutual satisfaction till the bell rings. Follow me, Sir!’

As Mr. Muzzle uttered these words, he took a step or two towards the door; and, by way of saving time, began to pull off his coat as he walked along.

Now, the cook no sooner heard the concluding words of this desperate challenge, and saw Mr. Muzzle about to put it into execution, than she uttered a loud and piercing shriek; and rushing on Mr. Job Trotter, who rose from his chair on the instant, tore and buffeted his large flat face, with an energy peculiar to excited females, and twining her hands in his long black hair, tore therefrom about enough to make five or six dozen of the very largest-sized mourning-rings. Having accomplished this feat with all the ardour which her devoted love for Mr. Muzzle inspired, she staggered back; and being a lady of very excitable and delicate feelings, she instantly fell under the dresser, and fainted away.

At this moment, the bell rang.

‘That’s for you, Job Trotter,’ said Sam; and before Mr. Trotter could offer remonstrance or reply—even before he had time to stanch the wounds inflicted by the insensible lady—Sam seized one arm and Mr. Muzzle the other, and one pulling before, and the other pushing behind, they conveyed him upstairs, and into the parlour.

It was an impressive tableau. Alfred Jingle, Esquire, alias Captain Fitz-Marshall, was standing near the door with his hat in his hand, and a smile on his face, wholly unmoved by his very unpleasant situation. Confronting him, stood Mr. Pickwick, who had evidently been inculcating some high moral lesson; for his left hand was beneath his coat tail, and his right extended in air, as was his wont when delivering himself of an impressive address. At a little distance, stood Mr. Tupman with indignant countenance, carefully held back by his two younger friends; at the farther end of the room were Mr. Nupkins, Mrs. Nupkins, and Miss Nupkins, gloomily grand and savagely vexed.

‘What prevents me,’ said Mr. Nupkins, with magisterial dignity, as Job was brought in—‘what prevents me from detaining these men as rogues and impostors? It is a foolish mercy. What prevents me?’

‘Pride, old fellow, pride,’ replied Jingle, quite at his ease. ‘Wouldn’t do—no go—caught a captain, eh?—ha! ha! very good—husband for daughter—biter bit—make it public—not for worlds—look stupid—very!’

‘Wretch,’ said Mr. Nupkins, ‘we scorn your base insinuations.’

‘I always hated him,’ added Henrietta.

‘Oh, of course,’ said Jingle. ‘Tall young man—old lover—Sidney Porkenham—rich—fine fellow—not so rich as captain, though, eh?—turn him away—off with him—anything for captain—nothing like captain anywhere—all the girls—raving mad—eh, Job, eh?’

Here Mr. Jingle laughed very heartily; and Job, rubbing his hands with delight, uttered the first sound he had given vent to since he entered the house—a low, noiseless chuckle, which seemed to intimate that he enjoyed his laugh too much, to let any of it escape in sound.

‘Mr. Nupkins,’ said the elder lady,’ this is not a fit conversation for the servants to overhear. Let these wretches be removed.’

‘Certainly, my dear,’ Said Mr. Nupkins. ‘Muzzle!’

‘Your Worship.’

‘Open the front door.’

‘Yes, your Worship.’

‘Leave the house!’ said Mr. Nupkins, waving his hand emphatically.

Jingle smiled, and moved towards the door.

‘Stay!’ said Mr. Pickwick. Jingle stopped.

‘I might,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘have taken a much greater revenge for the treatment I have experienced at your hands, and that of your hypocritical friend there.’

Job Trotter bowed with great politeness, and laid his hand upon his heart.

‘I say,’ said Mr. Pickwick, growing gradually angry, ‘that I might have taken a greater revenge, but I content myself with exposing you, which I consider a duty I owe to society. This is a leniency, Sir, which I hope you will remember.’

When Mr. Pickwick arrived at this point, Job Trotter, with facetious gravity, applied his hand to his ear, as if desirous not to lose a syllable he uttered.

‘And I have only to add, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, now thoroughly angry, ‘that I consider you a rascal, and a—a—ruffian—and—and worse than any man I ever saw, or heard of, except that pious and sanctified vagabond in the mulberry livery.’

‘Ha! ha!’ said Jingle, ‘good fellow, Pickwick—fine heart—stout old boy—but must not be passionate—bad thing, very—bye, bye—see you again some day—keep up your spirits—now, Job—trot!’

With these words, Mr. Jingle stuck on his hat in his old fashion, and strode out of the room. Job Trotter paused, looked round, smiled and then with a bow of mock solemnity to Mr. Pickwick, and a wink to Mr. Weller, the audacious slyness of which baffles all description, followed the footsteps of his hopeful master.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Weller was following.

‘Sir.’

Stay here.’

Mr. Weller seemed uncertain.

‘Stay here,’ repeated Mr. Pickwick.

‘Mayn’t I polish that ‘ere Job off, in the front garden?’ said Mr. Weller.

‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Mayn’t I kick him out o’ the gate, Sir?’ said Mr. Weller.

‘Not on any account,’ replied his master.

For the first time since his engagement, Mr. Weller looked, for a moment, discontented and unhappy. But his countenance immediately cleared up; for the wily Mr. Muzzle, by concealing himself behind the street door, and rushing violently out, at the right instant, contrived with great dexterity to overturn both Mr. Jingle and his attendant, down the flight of steps, into the American aloe tubs that stood beneath.

‘Having discharged my duty, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Nupkins, ‘I will, with my friends, bid you farewell. While we thank you for such hospitality as we have received, permit me to assure you, in our joint names, that we should not have accepted it, or have consented to extricate ourselves in this way, from our previous dilemma, had we not been impelled by a strong sense of duty. We return to London to-morrow. Your secret is safe with us.’

Having thus entered his protest against their treatment of the morning, Mr. Pickwick bowed low to the ladies, and notwithstanding the solicitations of the family, left the room with his friends.

‘Get your hat, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘It’s below stairs, Sir,’ said Sam, and he ran down after it.

Now, there was nobody in the kitchen, but the pretty housemaid; and as Sam’s hat was mislaid, he had to look for it, and the pretty housemaid lighted him. They had to look all over the place for the hat. The pretty housemaid, in her anxiety to find it, went down on her knees, and turned over all the things that were heaped together in a little corner by the door. It was an awkward corner. You couldn’t get at it without shutting the door first.

‘Here it is,’ said the pretty housemaid. ‘This is it, ain’t it?’

‘Let me look,’ said Sam.

The pretty housemaid had stood the candle on the floor; and, as it gave a very dim light, Sam was obliged to go down on his knees before he could see whether it really was his own hat or not. It was a remarkably small corner, and so—it was nobody’s fault but the man’s who built the house—Sam and the pretty housemaid were necessarily very close together.

‘Yes, this is it,’ said Sam. ‘Good-bye!’

‘Good-bye!’ said the pretty housemaid.

‘Good-bye!’ said Sam; and as he said it, he dropped the hat that had cost so much trouble in looking for.

‘How awkward you are,’ said the pretty housemaid. ‘You’ll lose it again, if you don’t take care.’

So just to prevent his losing it again, she put it on for him.

Whether it was that the pretty housemaid’s face looked prettier still, when it was raised towards Sam’s, or whether it was the accidental consequence of their being so near to each other, is matter of uncertainty to this day; but Sam kissed her.

‘You don’t mean to say you did that on purpose,’ said the pretty housemaid, blushing.

‘No, I didn’t then,’ said Sam; ‘but I will now.’

So he kissed her again.

‘Sam!’ said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the banisters.

‘Coming, Sir,’ replied Sam, running upstairs.

‘How long you have been!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘There was something behind the door, Sir, which perwented our getting it open, for ever so long, Sir,’ replied Sam.

And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller’s first love.