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The Pickwick Papers

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CHAPTER XXXVI. THE CHIEF FEATURES OF WHICH WILL BE FOUND TO BE AN AUTHENTIC VERSION OF THE LEGEND OF PRINCE BLADUD, AND A MOST EXTRAORDINARY CALAMITY THAT BEFELL MR. WINKLE

As Mr. Pickwick contemplated a stay of at least two months in Bath, he deemed it advisable to take private lodgings for himself and friends for that period; and as a favourable opportunity offered for their securing, on moderate terms, the upper portion of a house in the Royal Crescent, which was larger than they required, Mr. and Mrs. Dowler offered to relieve them of a bedroom and sitting-room. This proposition was at once accepted, and in three days’ time they were all located in their new abode, when Mr. Pickwick began to drink the waters with the utmost assiduity. Mr. Pickwick took them systematically. He drank a quarter of a pint before breakfast, and then walked up a hill; and another quarter of a pint after breakfast, and then walked down a hill; and, after every fresh quarter of a pint, Mr. Pickwick declared, in the most solemn and emphatic terms, that he felt a great deal better; whereat his friends were very much delighted, though they had not been previously aware that there was anything the matter with him.

The Great Pump Room is a spacious saloon, ornamented with Corinthian pillars, and a music-gallery, and a Tompion clock, and a statue of Nash, and a golden inscription, to which all the water-drinkers should attend, for it appeals to them in the cause of a deserving charity. There is a large bar with a marble vase, out of which the pumper gets the water; and there are a number of yellow-looking tumblers, out of which the company get it; and it is a most edifying and satisfactory sight to behold the perseverance and gravity with which they swallow it. There are baths near at hand, in which a part of the company wash themselves; and a band plays afterwards, to congratulate the remainder on their having done so. There is another pump room, into which infirm ladies and gentlemen are wheeled, in such an astonishing variety of chairs and chaises, that any adventurous individual who goes in with the regular number of toes, is in imminent danger of coming out without them; and there is a third, into which the quiet people go, for it is less noisy than either. There is an immensity of promenading, on crutches and off, with sticks and without, and a great deal of conversation, and liveliness, and pleasantry.

Every morning, the regular water-drinkers, Mr. Pickwick among the number, met each other in the pump room, took their quarter of a pint, and walked constitutionally. At the afternoon’s promenade, Lord Mutanhed, and the Honourable Mr. Crushton, the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph, Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, and all the great people, and all the morning water-drinkers, met in grand assemblage. After this, they walked out, or drove out, or were pushed out in bath-chairs, and met one another again. After this, the gentlemen went to the reading-rooms, and met divisions of the mass. After this, they went home. If it were theatre-night, perhaps they met at the theatre; if it were assembly-night, they met at the rooms; and if it were neither, they met the next day. A very pleasant routine, with perhaps a slight tinge of sameness.

Mr. Pickwick was sitting up by himself, after a day spent in this manner, making entries in his journal, his friends having retired to bed, when he was roused by a gentle tap at the room door.

‘Beg your pardon, Sir,’ said Mrs. Craddock, the landlady, peeping in; ‘but did you want anything more, sir?’

‘Nothing more, ma’am,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘My young girl is gone to bed, Sir,’ said Mrs. Craddock; ‘and Mr. Dowler is good enough to say that he’ll sit up for Mrs. Dowler, as the party isn’t expected to be over till late; so I was thinking that if you wanted nothing more, Mr. Pickwick, I would go to bed.’

‘By all means, ma’am,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Wish you good-night, Sir,’ said Mrs. Craddock.

‘Good-night, ma’am,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick.

Mrs. Craddock closed the door, and Mr. Pickwick resumed his writing.

In half an hour’s time the entries were concluded. Mr. Pickwick carefully rubbed the last page on the blotting-paper, shut up the book, wiped his pen on the bottom of the inside of his coat tail, and opened the drawer of the inkstand to put it carefully away. There were a couple of sheets of writing-paper, pretty closely written over, in the inkstand drawer, and they were folded so, that the title, which was in a good round hand, was fully disclosed to him. Seeing from this, that it was no private document; and as it seemed to relate to Bath, and was very short: Mr. Pick-wick unfolded it, lighted his bedroom candle that it might burn up well by the time he finished; and drawing his chair nearer the fire, read as follows—

  THE TRUE LEGEND OF PRINCE BLADUD

‘Less than two hundred years ago, on one of the public baths in this city, there appeared an inscription in honour of its mighty founder, the renowned Prince Bladud. That inscription is now erased.

‘For many hundred years before that time, there had been handed down, from age to age, an old legend, that the illustrious prince being afflicted with leprosy, on his return from reaping a rich harvest of knowledge in Athens, shunned the court of his royal father, and consorted moodily with husbandman and pigs. Among the herd (so said the legend) was a pig of grave and solemn countenance, with whom the prince had a fellow-feeling—for he too was wise—a pig of thoughtful and reserved demeanour; an animal superior to his fellows, whose grunt was terrible, and whose bite was sharp. The young prince sighed deeply as he looked upon the countenance of the majestic swine; he thought of his royal father, and his eyes were bedewed with tears.

‘This sagacious pig was fond of bathing in rich, moist mud. Not in summer, as common pigs do now, to cool themselves, and did even in those distant ages (which is a proof that the light of civilisation had already begun to dawn, though feebly), but in the cold, sharp days of winter. His coat was ever so sleek, and his complexion so clear, that the prince resolved to essay the purifying qualities of the same water that his friend resorted to. He made the trial. Beneath that black mud, bubbled the hot springs of Bath. He washed, and was cured. Hastening to his father’s court, he paid his best respects, and returning quickly hither, founded this city and its famous baths.

‘He sought the pig with all the ardour of their early friendship—but, alas! the waters had been his death. He had imprudently taken a bath at too high a temperature, and the natural philosopher was no more! He was succeeded by Pliny, who also fell a victim to his thirst for knowledge.

‘This was the legend. Listen to the true one.

‘A great many centuries since, there flourished, in great state, the famous and renowned Lud Hudibras, king of Britain. He was a mighty monarch. The earth shook when he walked—he was so very stout. His people basked in the light of his countenance—it was so red and glowing. He was, indeed, every inch a king. And there were a good many inches of him, too, for although he was not very tall, he was a remarkable size round, and the inches that he wanted in height, he made up in circumference. If any degenerate monarch of modern times could be in any way compared with him, I should say the venerable King Cole would be that illustrious potentate.

‘This good king had a queen, who eighteen years before, had had a son, who was called Bladud. He was sent to a preparatory seminary in his father’s dominions until he was ten years old, and was then despatched, in charge of a trusty messenger, to a finishing school at Athens; and as there was no extra charge for remaining during the holidays, and no notice required previous to the removal of a pupil, there he remained for eight long years, at the expiration of which time, the king his father sent the lord chamberlain over, to settle the bill, and to bring him home; which, the lord chamberlain doing, was received with shouts, and pensioned immediately.

‘When King Lud saw the prince his son, and found he had grown up such a fine young man, he perceived what a grand thing it would be to have him married without delay, so that his children might be the means of perpetuating the glorious race of Lud, down to the very latest ages of the world. With this view, he sent a special embassy, composed of great noblemen who had nothing particular to do, and wanted lucrative employment, to a neighbouring king, and demanded his fair daughter in marriage for his son; stating at the same time that he was anxious to be on the most affectionate terms with his brother and friend, but that if they couldn’t agree in arranging this marriage, he should be under the unpleasant necessity of invading his kingdom and putting his eyes out. To this, the other king (who was the weaker of the two) replied that he was very much obliged to his friend and brother for all his goodness and magnanimity, and that his daughter was quite ready to be married, whenever Prince Bladud liked to come and fetch her.

‘This answer no sooner reached Britain, than the whole nation was transported with joy. Nothing was heard, on all sides, but the sounds of feasting and revelry—except the chinking of money as it was paid in by the people to the collector of the royal treasures, to defray the expenses of the happy ceremony. It was upon this occasion that King Lud, seated on the top of his throne in full council, rose, in the exuberance of his feelings, and commanded the lord chief justice to order in the richest wines and the court minstrels—an act of graciousness which has been, through the ignorance of traditionary historians, attributed to King Cole, in those celebrated lines in which his Majesty is represented as

     Calling for his pipe, and calling for his pot,
     And calling for his fiddlers three.

Which is an obvious injustice to the memory of King Lud, and a dishonest exaltation of the virtues of King Cole.

‘But, in the midst of all this festivity and rejoicing, there was one individual present, who tasted not when the sparkling wines were poured forth, and who danced not, when the minstrels played. This was no other than Prince Bladud himself, in honour of whose happiness a whole people were, at that very moment, straining alike their throats and purse-strings. The truth was, that the prince, forgetting the undoubted right of the minister for foreign affairs to fall in love on his behalf, had, contrary to every precedent of policy and diplomacy, already fallen in love on his own account, and privately contracted himself unto the fair daughter of a noble Athenian.

‘Here we have a striking example of one of the manifold advantages of civilisation and refinement. If the prince had lived in later days, he might at once have married the object of his father’s choice, and then set himself seriously to work, to relieve himself of the burden which rested heavily upon him. He might have endeavoured to break her heart by a systematic course of insult and neglect; or, if the spirit of her sex, and a proud consciousness of her many wrongs had upheld her under this ill-treatment, he might have sought to take her life, and so get rid of her effectually. But neither mode of relief suggested itself to Prince Bladud; so he solicited a private audience, and told his father.

‘It is an old prerogative of kings to govern everything but their passions. King Lud flew into a frightful rage, tossed his crown up to the ceiling, and caught it again—for in those days kings kept their crowns on their heads, and not in the Tower—stamped the ground, rapped his forehead, wondered why his own flesh and blood rebelled against him, and, finally, calling in his guards, ordered the prince away to instant Confinement in a lofty turret; a course of treatment which the kings of old very generally pursued towards their sons, when their matrimonial inclinations did not happen to point to the same quarter as their own.

‘When Prince Bladud had been shut up in the lofty turret for the greater part of a year, with no better prospect before his bodily eyes than a stone wall, or before his mental vision than prolonged imprisonment, he naturally began to ruminate on a plan of escape, which, after months of preparation, he managed to accomplish; considerately leaving his dinner-knife in the heart of his jailer, lest the poor fellow (who had a family) should be considered privy to his flight, and punished accordingly by the infuriated king.

‘The monarch was frantic at the loss of his son. He knew not on whom to vent his grief and wrath, until fortunately bethinking himself of the lord chamberlain who had brought him home, he struck off his pension and his head together.

‘Meanwhile, the young prince, effectually disguised, wandered on foot through his father’s dominions, cheered and supported in all his hardships by sweet thoughts of the Athenian maid, who was the innocent cause of his weary trials. One day he stopped to rest in a country village; and seeing that there were gay dances going forward on the green, and gay faces passing to and fro, ventured to inquire of a reveller who stood near him, the reason for this rejoicing.

‘“Know you not, O stranger,” was the reply, “of the recent proclamation of our gracious king?”

‘“Proclamation! No. What proclamation?” rejoined the prince—for he had travelled along the by and little-frequented ways, and knew nothing of what had passed upon the public roads, such as they were.

‘“Why,” replied the peasant, “the foreign lady that our prince wished to wed, is married to a foreign noble of her own country, and the king proclaims the fact, and a great public festival besides; for now, of course, Prince Bladud will come back and marry the lady his father chose, who they say is as beautiful as the noonday sun. Your health, sir. God save the king!”

‘The prince remained to hear no more. He fled from the spot, and plunged into the thickest recesses of a neighbouring wood. On, on, he wandered, night and day; beneath the blazing sun, and the cold pale moon; through the dry heat of noon, and the damp cold of night; in the gray light of morn, and the red glare of eve. So heedless was he of time or object, that being bound for Athens, he wandered as far out of his way as Bath.

‘There was no city where Bath stands, then. There was no vestige of human habitation, or sign of man’s resort, to bear the name; but there was the same noble country, the same broad expanse of hill and dale, the same beautiful channel stealing on, far away, the same lofty mountains which, like the troubles of life, viewed at a distance, and partially obscured by the bright mist of its morning, lose their ruggedness and asperity, and seem all ease and softness. Moved by the gentle beauty of the scene, the prince sank upon the green turf, and bathed his swollen feet in his tears.

‘“Oh!” said the unhappy Bladud, clasping his hands, and mournfully raising his eyes towards the sky, “would that my wanderings might end here! Would that these grateful tears with which I now mourn hope misplaced, and love despised, might flow in peace for ever!”

‘The wish was heard. It was in the time of the heathen deities, who used occasionally to take people at their words, with a promptness, in some cases, extremely awkward. The ground opened beneath the prince’s feet; he sank into the chasm; and instantaneously it closed upon his head for ever, save where his hot tears welled up through the earth, and where they have continued to gush forth ever since.

‘It is observable that, to this day, large numbers of elderly ladies and gentlemen who have been disappointed in procuring partners, and almost as many young ones who are anxious to obtain them, repair annually to Bath to drink the waters, from which they derive much strength and comfort. This is most complimentary to the virtue of Prince Bladud’s tears, and strongly corroborative of the veracity of this legend.’

Mr. Pickwick yawned several times when he had arrived at the end of this little manuscript, carefully refolded, and replaced it in the inkstand drawer, and then, with a countenance expressive of the utmost weariness, lighted his chamber candle, and went upstairs to bed.

He stopped at Mr. Dowler’s door, according to custom, and knocked to say good-night.

‘Ah!’ said Dowler, ‘going to bed? I wish I was. Dismal night. Windy; isn’t it?’

‘Very,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Good-night.’

‘Good-night.’

Mr. Pickwick went to his bedchamber, and Mr. Dowler resumed his seat before the fire, in fulfilment of his rash promise to sit up till his wife came home.

There are few things more worrying than sitting up for somebody, especially if that somebody be at a party. You cannot help thinking how quickly the time passes with them, which drags so heavily with you; and the more you think of this, the more your hopes of their speedy arrival decline. Clocks tick so loud, too, when you are sitting up alone, and you seem as if you had an under-garment of cobwebs on. First, something tickles your right knee, and then the same sensation irritates your left. You have no sooner changed your position, than it comes again in the arms; when you have fidgeted your limbs into all sorts of queer shapes, you have a sudden relapse in the nose, which you rub as if to rub it off—as there is no doubt you would, if you could. Eyes, too, are mere personal inconveniences; and the wick of one candle gets an inch and a half long, while you are snuffing the other. These, and various other little nervous annoyances, render sitting up for a length of time after everybody else has gone to bed, anything but a cheerful amusement.

This was just Mr. Dowler’s opinion, as he sat before the fire, and felt honestly indignant with all the inhuman people at the party who were keeping him up. He was not put into better humour either, by the reflection that he had taken it into his head, early in the evening, to think he had got an ache there, and so stopped at home. At length, after several droppings asleep, and fallings forward towards the bars, and catchings backward soon enough to prevent being branded in the face, Mr. Dowler made up his mind that he would throw himself on the bed in the back room and think—not sleep, of course.

‘I’m a heavy sleeper,’ said Mr. Dowler, as he flung himself on the bed. ‘I must keep awake. I suppose I shall hear a knock here. Yes. I thought so. I can hear the watchman. There he goes. Fainter now, though. A little fainter. He’s turning the corner. Ah!’ When Mr. Dowler arrived at this point, he turned the corner at which he had been long hesitating, and fell fast asleep.

Just as the clock struck three, there was blown into the crescent a sedan-chair with Mrs. Dowler inside, borne by one short, fat chairman, and one long, thin one, who had had much ado to keep their bodies perpendicular: to say nothing of the chair. But on that high ground, and in the crescent, which the wind swept round and round as if it were going to tear the paving stones up, its fury was tremendous. They were very glad to set the chair down, and give a good round loud double-knock at the street door.

They waited some time, but nobody came.

‘Servants is in the arms o’ Porpus, I think,’ said the short chairman, warming his hands at the attendant link-boy’s torch.

‘I wish he’d give ‘em a squeeze and wake ‘em,’ observed the long one.

‘Knock again, will you, if you please,’ cried Mrs. Dowler from the chair. ‘Knock two or three times, if you please.’

The short man was quite willing to get the job over, as soon as possible; so he stood on the step, and gave four or five most startling double-knocks, of eight or ten knocks a-piece, while the long man went into the road, and looked up at the windows for a light.

Nobody came. It was all as silent and dark as ever.

‘Dear me!’ said Mrs. Dowler. ‘You must knock again, if you please.’

There ain’t a bell, is there, ma’am?’ said the short chairman.

‘Yes, there is,’ interposed the link-boy, ‘I’ve been a-ringing at it ever so long.’

‘It’s only a handle,’ said Mrs. Dowler, ‘the wire’s broken.’

‘I wish the servants’ heads wos,’ growled the long man.

‘I must trouble you to knock again, if you please,’ said Mrs. Dowler, with the utmost politeness.

The short man did knock again several times, without producing the smallest effect. The tall man, growing very impatient, then relieved him, and kept on perpetually knocking double-knocks of two loud knocks each, like an insane postman.

At length Mr. Winkle began to dream that he was at a club, and that the members being very refractory, the chairman was obliged to hammer the table a good deal to preserve order; then he had a confused notion of an auction room where there were no bidders, and the auctioneer was buying everything in; and ultimately he began to think it just within the bounds of possibility that somebody might be knocking at the street door. To make quite certain, however, he remained quiet in bed for ten minutes or so, and listened; and when he had counted two or three-and-thirty knocks, he felt quite satisfied, and gave himself a great deal of credit for being so wakeful.

‘Rap rap-rap rap-rap rap-ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, rap!’ went the knocker.

Mr. Winkle jumped out of bed, wondering very much what could possibly be the matter, and hastily putting on his stockings and slippers, folded his dressing-gown round him, lighted a flat candle from the rush-light that was burning in the fireplace, and hurried downstairs.

‘Here’s somebody comin’ at last, ma’am,’ said the short chairman.

‘I wish I wos behind him vith a bradawl,’ muttered the long one.

‘Who’s there?’ cried Mr. Winkle, undoing the chain.

‘Don’t stop to ask questions, cast-iron head,’ replied the long man, with great disgust, taking it for granted that the inquirer was a footman; ‘but open the door.’

‘Come, look sharp, timber eyelids,’ added the other encouragingly.

Mr. Winkle, being half asleep, obeyed the command mechanically, opened the door a little, and peeped out. The first thing he saw, was the red glare of the link-boy’s torch. Startled by the sudden fear that the house might be on fire, he hastily threw the door wide open, and holding the candle above his head, stared eagerly before him, not quite certain whether what he saw was a sedan-chair or a fire-engine. At this instant there came a violent gust of wind; the light was blown out; Mr. Winkle felt himself irresistibly impelled on to the steps; and the door blew to, with a loud crash.

‘Well, young man, now you have done it!’ said the short chairman.

Mr. Winkle, catching sight of a lady’s face at the window of the sedan, turned hastily round, plied the knocker with all his might and main, and called frantically upon the chairman to take the chair away again.

‘Take it away, take it away,’ cried Mr. Winkle. ‘Here’s somebody coming out of another house; put me into the chair. Hide me! Do something with me!’

All this time he was shivering with cold; and every time he raised his hand to the knocker, the wind took the dressing-gown in a most unpleasant manner.

‘The people are coming down the crescent now. There are ladies with ‘em; cover me up with something. Stand before me!’ roared Mr. Winkle. But the chairmen were too much exhausted with laughing to afford him the slightest assistance, and the ladies were every moment approaching nearer and nearer.

Mr. Winkle gave a last hopeless knock; the ladies were only a few doors off. He threw away the extinguished candle, which, all this time he had held above his head, and fairly bolted into the sedan-chair where Mrs. Dowler was.

Now, Mrs. Craddock had heard the knocking and the voices at last; and, only waiting to put something smarter on her head than her nightcap, ran down into the front drawing-room to make sure that it was the right party. Throwing up the window-sash as Mr. Winkle was rushing into the chair, she no sooner caught sight of what was going forward below, than she raised a vehement and dismal shriek, and implored Mr. Dowler to get up directly, for his wife was running away with another gentleman.

Upon this, Mr. Dowler bounced off the bed as abruptly as an India-rubber ball, and rushing into the front room, arrived at one window just as Mr. Pickwick threw up the other, when the first object that met the gaze of both, was Mr. Winkle bolting into the sedan-chair.

‘Watchman,’ shouted Dowler furiously, ‘stop him—hold him—keep him tight—shut him in, till I come down. I’ll cut his throat—give me a knife—from ear to ear, Mrs. Craddock—I will!’ And breaking from the shrieking landlady, and from Mr. Pickwick, the indignant husband seized a small supper-knife, and tore into the street.

But Mr. Winkle didn’t wait for him. He no sooner heard the horrible threat of the valorous Dowler, than he bounced out of the sedan, quite as quickly as he had bounced in, and throwing off his slippers into the road, took to his heels and tore round the crescent, hotly pursued by Dowler and the watchman. He kept ahead; the door was open as he came round the second time; he rushed in, slammed it in Dowler’s face, mounted to his bedroom, locked the door, piled a wash-hand-stand, chest of drawers, and a table against it, and packed up a few necessaries ready for flight with the first ray of morning.

Dowler came up to the outside of the door; avowed, through the keyhole, his steadfast determination of cutting Mr. Winkle’s throat next day; and, after a great confusion of voices in the drawing-room, amidst which that of Mr. Pickwick was distinctly heard endeavouring to make peace, the inmates dispersed to their several bed-chambers, and all was quiet once more.

It is not unlikely that the inquiry may be made, where Mr. Weller was, all this time? We will state where he was, in the next chapter.






CHAPTER XXXVII. HONOURABLY ACCOUNTS FOR MR. WELLER’S ABSENCE, BY DESCRIBING A SOIREE TO WHICH HE WAS INVITED AND WENT; ALSO RELATES HOW HE WAS ENTRUSTED BY MR. PICKWICK WITH A PRIVATE MISSION OF DELICACY AND IMPORTANCE

Mr. Weller,’ said Mrs. Craddock, upon the morning of this very eventful day, ‘here’s a letter for you.’

‘Wery odd that,’ said Sam; ‘I’m afeerd there must be somethin’ the matter, for I don’t recollect any gen’l’m’n in my circle of acquaintance as is capable o’ writin’ one.’

‘Perhaps something uncommon has taken place,’ observed Mrs. Craddock.

‘It must be somethin’ wery uncommon indeed, as could perduce a letter out o’ any friend o’ mine,’ replied Sam, shaking his head dubiously; ‘nothin’ less than a nat’ral conwulsion, as the young gen’l’m’n observed ven he wos took with fits. It can’t be from the gov’ner,’ said Sam, looking at the direction. ‘He always prints, I know, ‘cos he learnt writin’ from the large bills in the booking-offices. It’s a wery strange thing now, where this here letter can ha’ come from.’

As Sam said this, he did what a great many people do when they are uncertain about the writer of a note—looked at the seal, and then at the front, and then at the back, and then at the sides, and then at the superscription; and, as a last resource, thought perhaps he might as well look at the inside, and try to find out from that.

‘It’s wrote on gilt-edged paper,’ said Sam, as he unfolded it, ‘and sealed in bronze vax vith the top of a door key. Now for it.’ And, with a very grave face, Mr. Weller slowly read as follows—

‘A select company of the Bath footmen presents their compliments to Mr. Weller, and requests the pleasure of his company this evening, to a friendly swarry, consisting of a boiled leg of mutton with the usual trimmings. The swarry to be on table at half-past nine o’clock punctually.’

This was inclosed in another note, which ran thus—

‘Mr. John Smauker, the gentleman who had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Weller at the house of their mutual acquaintance, Mr. Bantam, a few days since, begs to inclose Mr. Weller the herewith invitation. If Mr. Weller will call on Mr. John Smauker at nine o’clock, Mr. John Smauker will have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Weller.

     (Signed)           ‘John Smauker.’ 
The envelope was directed to blank Weller, Esq., at Mr. Pickwick’s; and in a parenthesis, in the left hand corner, were the words ‘airy bell,’ as an instruction to the bearer.

‘Vell,’ said Sam, ‘this is comin’ it rayther powerful, this is. I never heerd a biled leg o’ mutton called a swarry afore. I wonder wot they’d call a roast one.’

However, without waiting to debate the point, Sam at once betook himself into the presence of Mr. Pickwick, and requested leave of absence for that evening, which was readily granted. With this permission and the street-door key, Sam Weller issued forth a little before the appointed time, and strolled leisurely towards Queen Square, which he no sooner gained than he had the satisfaction of beholding Mr. John Smauker leaning his powdered head against a lamp-post at a short distance off, smoking a cigar through an amber tube.

‘How do you do, Mr. Weller?’ said Mr. John Smauker, raising his hat gracefully with one hand, while he gently waved the other in a condescending manner. ‘How do you do, Sir?’

‘Why, reasonably conwalessent,’ replied Sam. ‘How do you find yourself, my dear feller?’

‘Only so so,’ said Mr. John Smauker.

‘Ah, you’ve been a-workin’ too hard,’ observed Sam. ‘I was fearful you would; it won’t do, you know; you must not give way to that ‘ere uncompromisin’ spirit o’ yourn.’

‘It’s not so much that, Mr. Weller,’ replied Mr. John Smauker, ‘as bad wine; I’m afraid I’ve been dissipating.’

‘Oh! that’s it, is it?’ said Sam; ‘that’s a wery bad complaint, that.’

‘And yet the temptation, you see, Mr. Weller,’ observed Mr. John Smauker.

‘Ah, to be sure,’ said Sam.

‘Plunged into the very vortex of society, you know, Mr. Weller,’ said Mr. John Smauker, with a sigh.

‘Dreadful, indeed!’ rejoined Sam.

‘But it’s always the way,’ said Mr. John Smauker; ‘if your destiny leads you into public life, and public station, you must expect to be subjected to temptations which other people is free from, Mr. Weller.’

‘Precisely what my uncle said, ven he vent into the public line,’ remarked Sam, ‘and wery right the old gen’l’m’n wos, for he drank hisself to death in somethin’ less than a quarter.’

Mr. John Smauker looked deeply indignant at any parallel being drawn between himself and the deceased gentleman in question; but, as Sam’s face was in the most immovable state of calmness, he thought better of it, and looked affable again.

‘Perhaps we had better be walking,’ said Mr. Smauker, consulting a copper timepiece which dwelt at the bottom of a deep watch-pocket, and was raised to the surface by means of a black string, with a copper key at the other end.

‘P’raps we had,’ replied Sam, ‘or they’ll overdo the swarry, and that’ll spile it.’

‘Have you drank the waters, Mr. Weller?’ inquired his companion, as they walked towards High Street.

‘Once,’ replied Sam.

‘What did you think of ‘em, Sir?’

‘I thought they was particklery unpleasant,’ replied Sam.

‘Ah,’ said Mr. John Smauker, ‘you disliked the killibeate taste, perhaps?’

‘I don’t know much about that ‘ere,’ said Sam. ‘I thought they’d a wery strong flavour o’ warm flat irons.’

‘That is the killibeate, Mr. Weller,’ observed Mr. John Smauker contemptuously.

‘Well, if it is, it’s a wery inexpressive word, that’s all,’ said Sam. ‘It may be, but I ain’t much in the chimical line myself, so I can’t say.’ And here, to the great horror of Mr. John Smauker, Sam Weller began to whistle.

‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Weller,’ said Mr. John Smauker, agonised at the exceeding ungenteel sound, ‘will you take my arm?’

‘Thank’ee, you’re wery good, but I won’t deprive you of it,’ replied Sam. ‘I’ve rayther a way o’ putting my hands in my pockets, if it’s all the same to you.’ As Sam said this, he suited the action to the word, and whistled far louder than before.

‘This way,’ said his new friend, apparently much relieved as they turned down a by-street; ‘we shall soon be there.’

‘Shall we?’ said Sam, quite unmoved by the announcement of his close vicinity to the select footmen of Bath.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. John Smauker. ‘Don’t be alarmed, Mr. Weller.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Sam.

‘You’ll see some very handsome uniforms, Mr. Weller,’ continued Mr. John Smauker; ‘and perhaps you’ll find some of the gentlemen rather high at first, you know, but they’ll soon come round.’

‘That’s wery kind on ‘em,’ replied Sam.

‘And you know,’ resumed Mr. John Smauker, with an air of sublime protection—‘you know, as you’re a stranger, perhaps, they’ll be rather hard upon you at first.’

‘They won’t be wery cruel, though, will they?’ inquired Sam.

‘No, no,’ replied Mr. John Smauker, pulling forth the fox’s head, and taking a gentlemanly pinch. ‘There are some funny dogs among us, and they will have their joke, you know; but you mustn’t mind ‘em, you mustn’t mind ‘em.’

‘I’ll try and bear up agin such a reg’lar knock down o’ talent,’ replied Sam.

‘That’s right,’ said Mr. John Smauker, putting forth his fox’s head, and elevating his own; ‘I’ll stand by you.’

By this time they had reached a small greengrocer’s shop, which Mr. John Smauker entered, followed by Sam, who, the moment he got behind him, relapsed into a series of the very broadest and most unmitigated grins, and manifested other demonstrations of being in a highly enviable state of inward merriment.

Crossing the greengrocer’s shop, and putting their hats on the stairs in the little passage behind it, they walked into a small parlour; and here the full splendour of the scene burst upon Mr. Weller’s view.

A couple of tables were put together in the middle of the parlour, covered with three or four cloths of different ages and dates of washing, arranged to look as much like one as the circumstances of the case would allow. Upon these were laid knives and forks for six or eight people. Some of the knife handles were green, others red, and a few yellow; and as all the forks were black, the combination of colours was exceedingly striking. Plates for a corresponding number of guests were warming behind the fender; and the guests themselves were warming before it: the chief and most important of whom appeared to be a stoutish gentleman in a bright crimson coat with long tails, vividly red breeches, and a cocked hat, who was standing with his back to the fire, and had apparently just entered, for besides retaining his cocked hat on his head, he carried in his hand a high stick, such as gentlemen of his profession usually elevate in a sloping position over the roofs of carriages.

‘Smauker, my lad, your fin,’ said the gentleman with the cocked hat.

Mr. Smauker dovetailed the top joint of his right-hand little finger into that of the gentleman with the cocked hat, and said he was charmed to see him looking so well.

‘Well, they tell me I am looking pretty blooming,’ said the man with the cocked hat, ‘and it’s a wonder, too. I’ve been following our old woman about, two hours a day, for the last fortnight; and if a constant contemplation of the manner in which she hooks-and-eyes that infernal lavender-coloured old gown of hers behind, isn’t enough to throw anybody into a low state of despondency for life, stop my quarter’s salary.’

At this, the assembled selections laughed very heartily; and one gentleman in a yellow waistcoat, with a coach-trimming border, whispered a neighbour in green-foil smalls, that Tuckle was in spirits to-night.

‘By the bye,’ said Mr. Tuckle, ‘Smauker, my boy, you—’ The remainder of the sentence was forwarded into Mr. John Smauker’s ear, by whisper.

‘Oh, dear me, I quite forgot,’ said Mr. John Smauker. ‘Gentlemen, my friend Mr. Weller.’

‘Sorry to keep the fire off you, Weller,’ said Mr. Tuckle, with a familiar nod. ‘Hope you’re not cold, Weller.’

‘Not by no means, Blazes,’ replied Sam. ‘It ‘ud be a wery chilly subject as felt cold wen you stood opposite. You’d save coals if they put you behind the fender in the waitin’-room at a public office, you would.’

As this retort appeared to convey rather a personal allusion to Mr. Tuckle’s crimson livery, that gentleman looked majestic for a few seconds, but gradually edging away from the fire, broke into a forced smile, and said it wasn’t bad.

‘Wery much obliged for your good opinion, sir,’ replied Sam. ‘We shall get on by degrees, I des-say. We’ll try a better one by and bye.’

At this point the conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a gentleman in orange-coloured plush, accompanied by another selection in purple cloth, with a great extent of stocking. The new-comers having been welcomed by the old ones, Mr. Tuckle put the question that supper be ordered in, which was carried unanimously.

The greengrocer and his wife then arranged upon the table a boiled leg of mutton, hot, with caper sauce, turnips, and potatoes. Mr. Tuckle took the chair, and was supported at the other end of the board by the gentleman in orange plush. The greengrocer put on a pair of wash-leather gloves to hand the plates with, and stationed himself behind Mr. Tuckle’s chair.

‘Harris,’ said Mr. Tuckle, in a commanding tone.

‘Sir,’ said the greengrocer.

‘Have you got your gloves on?’

Yes, Sir.’

‘Then take the kiver off.’

‘Yes, Sir.’

The greengrocer did as he was told, with a show of great humility, and obsequiously handed Mr. Tuckle the carving-knife; in doing which, he accidentally gaped.

‘What do you mean by that, Sir?’ said Mr. Tuckle, with great asperity.

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ replied the crestfallen greengrocer, ‘I didn’t mean to do it, Sir; I was up very late last night, Sir.’

‘I tell you what my opinion of you is, Harris,’ said Mr. Tuckle, with a most impressive air, ‘you’re a wulgar beast.’

‘I hope, gentlemen,’ said Harris, ‘that you won’t be severe with me, gentlemen. I am very much obliged to you indeed, gentlemen, for your patronage, and also for your recommendations, gentlemen, whenever additional assistance in waiting is required. I hope, gentlemen, I give satisfaction.’

‘No, you don’t, Sir,’ said Mr. Tuckle. ‘Very far from it, Sir.’

‘We consider you an inattentive reskel,’ said the gentleman in the orange plush.

‘And a low thief,’ added the gentleman in the green-foil smalls.

‘And an unreclaimable blaygaird,’ added the gentleman in purple.

The poor greengrocer bowed very humbly while these little epithets were bestowed upon him, in the true spirit of the very smallest tyranny; and when everybody had said something to show his superiority, Mr. Tuckle proceeded to carve the leg of mutton, and to help the company.

This important business of the evening had hardly commenced, when the door was thrown briskly open, and another gentleman in a light-blue suit, and leaden buttons, made his appearance.

‘Against the rules,’ said Mr. Tuckle. ‘Too late, too late.’

‘No, no; positively I couldn’t help it,’ said the gentleman in blue. ‘I appeal to the company. An affair of gallantry now, an appointment at the theayter.’

‘Oh, that indeed,’ said the gentleman in the orange plush.

‘Yes; raly now, honour bright,’ said the man in blue. ‘I made a promese to fetch our youngest daughter at half-past ten, and she is such an uncauminly fine gal, that I raly hadn’t the ‘art to disappint her. No offence to the present company, Sir, but a petticut, sir—a petticut, Sir, is irrevokeable.’

‘I begin to suspect there’s something in that quarter,’ said Tuckle, as the new-comer took his seat next Sam, ‘I’ve remarked, once or twice, that she leans very heavy on your shoulder when she gets in and out of the carriage.’

‘Oh, raly, raly, Tuckle, you shouldn’t,’ said the man in blue. ‘It’s not fair. I may have said to one or two friends that she wos a very divine creechure, and had refused one or two offers without any hobvus cause, but—no, no, no, indeed, Tuckle—before strangers, too—it’s not right—you shouldn’t. Delicacy, my dear friend, delicacy!’ And the man in blue, pulling up his neckerchief, and adjusting his coat cuffs, nodded and frowned as if there were more behind, which he could say if he liked, but was bound in honour to suppress.

The man in blue being a light-haired, stiff-necked, free and easy sort of footman, with a swaggering air and pert face, had attracted Mr. Weller’s special attention at first, but when he began to come out in this way, Sam felt more than ever disposed to cultivate his acquaintance; so he launched himself into the conversation at once, with characteristic independence.

‘Your health, Sir,’ said Sam. ‘I like your conversation much. I think it’s wery pretty.’

At this the man in blue smiled, as if it were a compliment he was well used to; but looked approvingly on Sam at the same time, and said he hoped he should be better acquainted with him, for without any flattery at all he seemed to have the makings of a very nice fellow about him, and to be just the man after his own heart.

‘You’re wery good, sir,’ said Sam. ‘What a lucky feller you are!’

‘How do you mean?’ inquired the gentleman in blue.

‘That ‘ere young lady,’ replied Sam. ‘She knows wot’s wot, she does. Ah! I see.’ Mr. Weller closed one eye, and shook his head from side to side, in a manner which was highly gratifying to the personal vanity of the gentleman in blue.

‘I’m afraid you’re a cunning fellow, Mr. Weller,’ said that individual.

‘No, no,’ said Sam. ‘I leave all that ‘ere to you. It’s a great deal more in your way than mine, as the gen’l’m’n on the right side o’ the garden vall said to the man on the wrong un, ven the mad bull vos a-comin’ up the lane.’

‘Well, well, Mr. Weller,’ said the gentleman in blue, ‘I think she has remarked my air and manner, Mr. Weller.’

‘I should think she couldn’t wery well be off o’ that,’ said Sam.

‘Have you any little thing of that kind in hand, sir?’ inquired the favoured gentleman in blue, drawing a toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.

‘Not exactly,’ said Sam. ‘There’s no daughters at my place, else o’ course I should ha’ made up to vun on ‘em. As it is, I don’t think I can do with anythin’ under a female markis. I might keep up with a young ‘ooman o’ large property as hadn’t a title, if she made wery fierce love to me. Not else.’

‘Of course not, Mr. Weller,’ said the gentleman in blue, ‘one can’t be troubled, you know; and we know, Mr. Weller—we, who are men of the world—that a good uniform must work its way with the women, sooner or later. In fact, that’s the only thing, between you and me, that makes the service worth entering into.’

‘Just so,’ said Sam. ‘That’s it, o’ course.’

When this confidential dialogue had gone thus far, glasses were placed round, and every gentleman ordered what he liked best, before the public-house shut up. The gentleman in blue, and the man in orange, who were the chief exquisites of the party, ordered ‘cold shrub and water,’ but with the others, gin-and-water, sweet, appeared to be the favourite beverage. Sam called the greengrocer a ‘desp’rate willin,’ and ordered a large bowl of punch—two circumstances which seemed to raise him very much in the opinion of the selections.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the man in blue, with an air of the most consummate dandyism, ‘I’ll give you the ladies; come.’

‘Hear, hear!’ said Sam. ‘The young mississes.’

Here there was a loud cry of ‘Order,’ and Mr. John Smauker, as the gentleman who had introduced Mr. Weller into that company, begged to inform him that the word he had just made use of, was unparliamentary.

‘Which word was that ‘ere, Sir?’ inquired Sam.

‘Mississes, Sir,’ replied Mr. John Smauker, with an alarming frown. ‘We don’t recognise such distinctions here.’

‘Oh, wery good,’ said Sam; ‘then I’ll amend the obserwation and call ‘em the dear creeturs, if Blazes vill allow me.’

Some doubt appeared to exist in the mind of the gentleman in the green-foil smalls, whether the chairman could be legally appealed to, as ‘Blazes,’ but as the company seemed more disposed to stand upon their own rights than his, the question was not raised. The man with the cocked hat breathed short, and looked long at Sam, but apparently thought it as well to say nothing, in case he should get the worst of it. After a short silence, a gentleman in an embroidered coat reaching down to his heels, and a waistcoat of the same which kept one half of his legs warm, stirred his gin-and-water with great energy, and putting himself upon his feet, all at once by a violent effort, said he was desirous of offering a few remarks to the company, whereupon the person in the cocked hat had no doubt that the company would be very happy to hear any remarks that the man in the long coat might wish to offer.

‘I feel a great delicacy, gentlemen, in coming for’ard,’ said the man in the long coat, ‘having the misforchune to be a coachman, and being only admitted as a honorary member of these agreeable swarrys, but I do feel myself bound, gentlemen—drove into a corner, if I may use the expression—to make known an afflicting circumstance which has come to my knowledge; which has happened I may say within the soap of my everyday contemplation. Gentlemen, our friend Mr. Whiffers (everybody looked at the individual in orange), our friend Mr. Whiffers has resigned.’

Universal astonishment fell upon the hearers. Each gentleman looked in his neighbour’s face, and then transferred his glance to the upstanding coachman.

‘You may well be sapparised, gentlemen,’ said the coachman. ‘I will not wenchure to state the reasons of this irrepairabel loss to the service, but I will beg Mr. Whiffers to state them himself, for the improvement and imitation of his admiring friends.’

The suggestion being loudly approved of, Mr. Whiffers explained. He said he certainly could have wished to have continued to hold the appointment he had just resigned. The uniform was extremely rich and expensive, the females of the family was most agreeable, and the duties of the situation was not, he was bound to say, too heavy; the principal service that was required of him, being, that he should look out of the hall window as much as possible, in company with another gentleman, who had also resigned. He could have wished to have spared that company the painful and disgusting detail on which he was about to enter, but as the explanation had been demanded of him, he had no alternative but to state, boldly and distinctly, that he had been required to eat cold meat.

It is impossible to conceive the disgust which this avowal awakened in the bosoms of the hearers. Loud cries of ‘Shame,’ mingled with groans and hisses, prevailed for a quarter of an hour.

Mr. Whiffers then added that he feared a portion of this outrage might be traced to his own forbearing and accommodating disposition. He had a distinct recollection of having once consented to eat salt butter, and he had, moreover, on an occasion of sudden sickness in the house, so far forgotten himself as to carry a coal-scuttle up to the second floor. He trusted he had not lowered himself in the good opinion of his friends by this frank confession of his faults; and he hoped the promptness with which he had resented the last unmanly outrage on his feelings, to which he had referred, would reinstate him in their good opinion, if he had.

Mr. Whiffers’s address was responded to, with a shout of admiration, and the health of the interesting martyr was drunk in a most enthusiastic manner; for this, the martyr returned thanks, and proposed their visitor, Mr. Weller—a gentleman whom he had not the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with, but who was the friend of Mr. John Smauker, which was a sufficient letter of recommendation to any society of gentlemen whatever, or wherever. On this account, he should have been disposed to have given Mr. Weller’s health with all the honours, if his friends had been drinking wine; but as they were taking spirits by way of a change, and as it might be inconvenient to empty a tumbler at every toast, he should propose that the honours be understood.

At the conclusion of this speech, everybody took a sip in honour of Sam; and Sam having ladled out, and drunk, two full glasses of punch in honour of himself, returned thanks in a neat speech.

‘Wery much obliged to you, old fellers,’ said Sam, ladling away at the punch in the most unembarrassed manner possible, ‘for this here compliment; which, comin’ from sich a quarter, is wery overvelmin’. I’ve heered a good deal on you as a body, but I will say, that I never thought you was sich uncommon nice men as I find you air. I only hope you’ll take care o’ yourselves, and not compromise nothin’ o’ your dignity, which is a wery charmin’ thing to see, when one’s out a-walkin’, and has always made me wery happy to look at, ever since I was a boy about half as high as the brass-headed stick o’ my wery respectable friend, Blazes, there. As to the wictim of oppression in the suit o’ brimstone, all I can say of him, is, that I hope he’ll get jist as good a berth as he deserves; in vitch case it’s wery little cold swarry as ever he’ll be troubled with agin.’

Here Sam sat down with a pleasant smile, and his speech having been vociferously applauded, the company broke up.

‘Wy, you don’t mean to say you’re a-goin’ old feller?’ said Sam Weller to his friend, Mr. John Smauker.

‘I must, indeed,’ said Mr. Smauker; ‘I promised Bantam.’

‘Oh, wery well,’ said Sam; ‘that’s another thing. P’raps he’d resign if you disappinted him. You ain’t a-goin’, Blazes?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said the man with the cocked hat.

‘Wot, and leave three-quarters of a bowl of punch behind you!’ said Sam; ‘nonsense, set down agin.’

Mr. Tuckle was not proof against this invitation. He laid aside the cocked hat and stick which he had just taken up, and said he would have one glass, for good fellowship’s sake.

As the gentleman in blue went home the same way as Mr. Tuckle, he was prevailed upon to stop too. When the punch was about half gone, Sam ordered in some oysters from the green-grocer’s shop; and the effect of both was so extremely exhilarating, that Mr. Tuckle, dressed out with the cocked hat and stick, danced the frog hornpipe among the shells on the table, while the gentleman in blue played an accompaniment upon an ingenious musical instrument formed of a hair-comb upon a curl-paper. At last, when the punch was all gone, and the night nearly so, they sallied forth to see each other home. Mr. Tuckle no sooner got into the open air, than he was seized with a sudden desire to lie on the curbstone; Sam thought it would be a pity to contradict him, and so let him have his own way. As the cocked hat would have been spoiled if left there, Sam very considerately flattened it down on the head of the gentleman in blue, and putting the big stick in his hand, propped him up against his own street-door, rang the bell, and walked quietly home.

At a much earlier hour next morning than his usual time of rising, Mr. Pickwick walked downstairs completely dressed, and rang the bell.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, when Mr. Weller appeared in reply to the summons, ‘shut the door.’

Mr. Weller did so.

‘There was an unfortunate occurrence here, last night, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘which gave Mr. Winkle some cause to apprehend violence from Mr. Dowler.’

‘So I’ve heerd from the old lady downstairs, Sir,’ replied Sam.

‘And I’m sorry to say, Sam,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, with a most perplexed countenance, ‘that in dread of this violence, Mr. Winkle has gone away.’

‘Gone avay!’ said Sam.

‘Left the house early this morning, without the slightest previous communication with me,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘And is gone, I know not where.’

‘He should ha’ stopped and fought it out, Sir,’ replied Sam contemptuously. ‘It wouldn’t take much to settle that ‘ere Dowler, Sir.’

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I may have my doubts of his great bravery and determination also. But however that may be, Mr. Winkle is gone. He must be found, Sam. Found and brought back to me.’

And s’pose he won’t come back, Sir?’ said Sam.

‘He must be made, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Who’s to do it, Sir?’ inquired Sam, with a smile.

‘You,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Wery good, Sir.’

With these words Mr. Weller left the room, and immediately afterwards was heard to shut the street door. In two hours’ time he returned with so much coolness as if he had been despatched on the most ordinary message possible, and brought the information that an individual, in every respect answering Mr. Winkle’s description, had gone over to Bristol that morning, by the branch coach from the Royal Hotel.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, grasping his hand, ‘you’re a capital fellow; an invaluable fellow. You must follow him, Sam.’

‘Cert’nly, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘The instant you discover him, write to me immediately, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘If he attempts to run away from you, knock him down, or lock him up. You have my full authority, Sam.’

‘I’ll be wery careful, sir,’ rejoined Sam.

‘You’ll tell him,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘that I am highly excited, highly displeased, and naturally indignant, at the very extraordinary course he has thought proper to pursue.’

‘I will, Sir,’ replied Sam.

‘You’ll tell him,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘that if he does not come back to this very house, with you, he will come back with me, for I will come and fetch him.’

‘I’ll mention that ‘ere, Sir,’ rejoined Sam.

‘You think you can find him, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking earnestly in his face.

‘Oh, I’ll find him if he’s anyvere,’ rejoined Sam, with great confidence.

‘Very well,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Then the sooner you go the better.’

With these instructions, Mr. Pickwick placed a sum of money in the hands of his faithful servitor, and ordered him to start for Bristol immediately, in pursuit of the fugitive.

Sam put a few necessaries in a carpet-bag, and was ready for starting. He stopped when he had got to the end of the passage, and walking quietly back, thrust his head in at the parlour door.

‘Sir,’ whispered Sam.

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘I fully understands my instructions, do I, Sir?’ inquired Sam.

‘I hope so,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘It’s reg’larly understood about the knockin’ down, is it, Sir?’ inquired Sam.

‘Perfectly,’ replied Pickwick. ‘Thoroughly. Do what you think necessary. You have my orders.’

Sam gave a nod of intelligence, and withdrawing his head from the door, set forth on his pilgrimage with a light heart.






CHAPTER XXXVIII. HOW MR. WINKLE, WHEN HE STEPPED OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN, WALKED GENTLY AND COMFORTABLY INTO THE FIRE

The ill-starred gentleman who had been the unfortunate cause of the unusual noise and disturbance which alarmed the inhabitants of the Royal Crescent in manner and form already described, after passing a night of great confusion and anxiety, left the roof beneath which his friends still slumbered, bound he knew not whither. The excellent and considerate feelings which prompted Mr. Winkle to take this step can never be too highly appreciated or too warmly extolled. ‘If,’ reasoned Mr. Winkle with himself—‘if this Dowler attempts (as I have no doubt he will) to carry into execution his threat of personal violence against myself, it will be incumbent on me to call him out. He has a wife; that wife is attached to, and dependent on him. Heavens! If I should kill him in the blindness of my wrath, what would be my feelings ever afterwards!’ This painful consideration operated so powerfully on the feelings of the humane young man, as to cause his knees to knock together, and his countenance to exhibit alarming manifestations of inward emotion. Impelled by such reflections, he grasped his carpet-bag, and creeping stealthily downstairs, shut the detestable street door with as little noise as possible, and walked off. Bending his steps towards the Royal Hotel, he found a coach on the point of starting for Bristol, and, thinking Bristol as good a place for his purpose as any other he could go to, he mounted the box, and reached his place of destination in such time as the pair of horses, who went the whole stage and back again, twice a day or more, could be reasonably supposed to arrive there.

He took up his quarters at the Bush, and designing to postpone any communication by letter with Mr. Pickwick until it was probable that Mr. Dowler’s wrath might have in some degree evaporated, walked forth to view the city, which struck him as being a shade more dirty than any place he had ever seen. Having inspected the docks and shipping, and viewed the cathedral, he inquired his way to Clifton, and being directed thither, took the route which was pointed out to him. But as the pavements of Bristol are not the widest or cleanest upon earth, so its streets are not altogether the straightest or least intricate; and Mr. Winkle, being greatly puzzled by their manifold windings and twistings, looked about him for a decent shop in which he could apply afresh for counsel and instruction.

His eye fell upon a newly-painted tenement which had been recently converted into something between a shop and a private house, and which a red lamp, projecting over the fanlight of the street door, would have sufficiently announced as the residence of a medical practitioner, even if the word ‘Surgery’ had not been inscribed in golden characters on a wainscot ground, above the window of what, in times bygone, had been the front parlour. Thinking this an eligible place wherein to make his inquiries, Mr. Winkle stepped into the little shop where the gilt-labelled drawers and bottles were; and finding nobody there, knocked with a half-crown on the counter, to attract the attention of anybody who might happen to be in the back parlour, which he judged to be the innermost and peculiar sanctum of the establishment, from the repetition of the word surgery on the door—painted in white letters this time, by way of taking off the monotony.

At the first knock, a sound, as of persons fencing with fire-irons, which had until now been very audible, suddenly ceased; at the second, a studious-looking young gentleman in green spectacles, with a very large book in his hand, glided quietly into the shop, and stepping behind the counter, requested to know the visitor’s pleasure.

‘I am sorry to trouble you, Sir,’ said Mr. Winkle, ‘but will you have the goodness to direct me to—’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ roared the studious young gentleman, throwing the large book up into the air, and catching it with great dexterity at the very moment when it threatened to smash to atoms all the bottles on the counter. ‘Here’s a start!’

There was, without doubt; for Mr. Winkle was so very much astonished at the extraordinary behaviour of the medical gentleman, that he involuntarily retreated towards the door, and looked very much disturbed at his strange reception.

‘What, don’t you know me?’ said the medical gentleman.

Mr. Winkle murmured, in reply, that he had not that pleasure.

‘Why, then,’ said the medical gentleman, ‘there are hopes for me yet; I may attend half the old women in Bristol, if I’ve decent luck. Get out, you mouldy old villain, get out!’ With this adjuration, which was addressed to the large book, the medical gentleman kicked the volume with remarkable agility to the farther end of the shop, and, pulling off his green spectacles, grinned the identical grin of Robert Sawyer, Esquire, formerly of Guy’s Hospital in the Borough, with a private residence in Lant Street.

‘You don’t mean to say you weren’t down upon me?’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer, shaking Mr. Winkle’s hand with friendly warmth.

‘Upon my word I was not,’ replied Mr. Winkle, returning his pressure.

‘I wonder you didn’t see the name,’ said Bob Sawyer, calling his friend’s attention to the outer door, on which, in the same white paint, were traced the words ‘Sawyer, late Nockemorf.’

‘It never caught my eye,’ returned Mr. Winkle.

‘Lord, if I had known who you were, I should have rushed out, and caught you in my arms,’ said Bob Sawyer; ‘but upon my life, I thought you were the King’s-taxes.’

‘No!’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘I did, indeed,’ responded Bob Sawyer, ‘and I was just going to say that I wasn’t at home, but if you’d leave a message I’d be sure to give it to myself; for he don’t know me; no more does the Lighting and Paving. I think the Church-rates guesses who I am, and I know the Water-works does, because I drew a tooth of his when I first came down here. But come in, come in!’ Chattering in this way, Mr. Bob Sawyer pushed Mr. Winkle into the back room, where, amusing himself by boring little circular caverns in the chimney-piece with a red-hot poker, sat no less a person than Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘Well!’ said Mr. Winkle. ‘This is indeed a pleasure I did not expect. What a very nice place you have here!’

‘Pretty well, pretty well,’ replied Bob Sawyer. ‘I passed, soon after that precious party, and my friends came down with the needful for this business; so I put on a black suit of clothes, and a pair of spectacles, and came here to look as solemn as I could.’

‘And a very snug little business you have, no doubt?’ said Mr. Winkle knowingly.

‘Very,’ replied Bob Sawyer. ‘So snug, that at the end of a few years you might put all the profits in a wine-glass, and cover ‘em over with a gooseberry leaf.’

You cannot surely mean that?’ said Mr. Winkle. ‘The stock itself—’

Dummies, my dear boy,’ said Bob Sawyer; ‘half the drawers have nothing in ‘em, and the other half don’t open.’

‘Nonsense!’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘Fact—honour!’ returned Bob Sawyer, stepping out into the shop, and demonstrating the veracity of the assertion by divers hard pulls at the little gilt knobs on the counterfeit drawers. ‘Hardly anything real in the shop but the leeches, and they are second-hand.’

‘I shouldn’t have thought it!’ exclaimed Mr. Winkle, much surprised.

‘I hope not,’ replied Bob Sawyer, ‘else where’s the use of appearances, eh? But what will you take? Do as we do? That’s right. Ben, my fine fellow, put your hand into the cupboard, and bring out the patent digester.’

Mr. Benjamin Allen smiled his readiness, and produced from the closet at his elbow a black bottle half full of brandy.

‘You don’t take water, of course?’ said Bob Sawyer.

‘Thank you,’ replied Mr. Winkle. ‘It’s rather early. I should like to qualify it, if you have no objection.’

‘None in the least, if you can reconcile it to your conscience,’ replied Bob Sawyer, tossing off, as he spoke, a glass of the liquor with great relish. ‘Ben, the pipkin!’

Mr. Benjamin Allen drew forth, from the same hiding-place, a small brass pipkin, which Bob Sawyer observed he prided himself upon, particularly because it looked so business-like. The water in the professional pipkin having been made to boil, in course of time, by various little shovelfuls of coal, which Mr. Bob Sawyer took out of a practicable window-seat, labelled ‘Soda Water,’ Mr. Winkle adulterated his brandy; and the conversation was becoming general, when it was interrupted by the entrance into the shop of a boy, in a sober gray livery and a gold-laced hat, with a small covered basket under his arm, whom Mr. Bob Sawyer immediately hailed with, ‘Tom, you vagabond, come here.’

The boy presented himself accordingly.

‘You’ve been stopping to “over” all the posts in Bristol, you idle young scamp!’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer.

‘No, sir, I haven’t,’ replied the boy.

‘You had better not!’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with a threatening aspect. ‘Who do you suppose will ever employ a professional man, when they see his boy playing at marbles in the gutter, or flying the garter in the horse-road? Have you no feeling for your profession, you groveller? Did you leave all the medicine?’

Yes, Sir.’

‘The powders for the child, at the large house with the new family, and the pills to be taken four times a day at the ill-tempered old gentleman’s with the gouty leg?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then shut the door, and mind the shop.’

‘Come,’ said Mr. Winkle, as the boy retired, ‘things are not quite so bad as you would have me believe, either. There is some medicine to be sent out.’

Mr. Bob Sawyer peeped into the shop to see that no stranger was within hearing, and leaning forward to Mr. Winkle, said, in a low tone—

‘He leaves it all at the wrong houses.’

Mr. Winkle looked perplexed, and Bob Sawyer and his friend laughed.

‘Don’t you see?’ said Bob. ‘He goes up to a house, rings the area bell, pokes a packet of medicine without a direction into the servant’s hand, and walks off. Servant takes it into the dining-parlour; master opens it, and reads the label: “Draught to be taken at bedtime—pills as before—lotion as usual—the powder. From Sawyer’s, late Nockemorf’s. Physicians’ prescriptions carefully prepared,” and all the rest of it. Shows it to his wife—she reads the label; it goes down to the servants—they read the label. Next day, boy calls: “Very sorry—his mistake—immense business—great many parcels to deliver—Mr. Sawyer’s compliments—late Nockemorf.” The name gets known, and that’s the thing, my boy, in the medical way. Bless your heart, old fellow, it’s better than all the advertising in the world. We have got one four-ounce bottle that’s been to half the houses in Bristol, and hasn’t done yet.’

‘Dear me, I see,’ observed Mr. Winkle; ‘what an excellent plan!’

‘Oh, Ben and I have hit upon a dozen such,’ replied Bob Sawyer, with great glee. ‘The lamplighter has eighteenpence a week to pull the night-bell for ten minutes every time he comes round; and my boy always rushes into the church just before the psalms, when the people have got nothing to do but look about ‘em, and calls me out, with horror and dismay depicted on his countenance. “Bless my soul,” everybody says, “somebody taken suddenly ill! Sawyer, late Nockemorf, sent for. What a business that young man has!”’

At the termination of this disclosure of some of the mysteries of medicine, Mr. Bob Sawyer and his friend, Ben Allen, threw themselves back in their respective chairs, and laughed boisterously. When they had enjoyed the joke to their heart’s content, the discourse changed to topics in which Mr. Winkle was more immediately interested.

We think we have hinted elsewhere, that Mr. Benjamin Allen had a way of becoming sentimental after brandy. The case is not a peculiar one, as we ourself can testify, having, on a few occasions, had to deal with patients who have been afflicted in a similar manner. At this precise period of his existence, Mr. Benjamin Allen had perhaps a greater predisposition to maudlinism than he had ever known before; the cause of which malady was briefly this. He had been staying nearly three weeks with Mr. Bob Sawyer; Mr. Bob Sawyer was not remarkable for temperance, nor was Mr. Benjamin Allen for the ownership of a very strong head; the consequence was that, during the whole space of time just mentioned, Mr. Benjamin Allen had been wavering between intoxication partial, and intoxication complete.

‘My dear friend,’ said Mr. Ben Allen, taking advantage of Mr. Bob Sawyer’s temporary absence behind the counter, whither he had retired to dispense some of the second-hand leeches, previously referred to; ‘my dear friend, I am very miserable.’

Mr. Winkle professed his heartfelt regret to hear it, and begged to know whether he could do anything to alleviate the sorrows of the suffering student.

‘Nothing, my dear boy, nothing,’ said Ben. ‘You recollect Arabella, Winkle? My sister Arabella—a little girl, Winkle, with black eyes—when we were down at Wardle’s? I don’t know whether you happened to notice her—a nice little girl, Winkle. Perhaps my features may recall her countenance to your recollection?’

Mr. Winkle required nothing to recall the charming Arabella to his mind; and it was rather fortunate he did not, for the features of her brother Benjamin would unquestionably have proved but an indifferent refresher to his memory. He answered, with as much calmness as he could assume, that he perfectly remembered the young lady referred to, and sincerely trusted she was in good health.

‘Our friend Bob is a delightful fellow, Winkle,’ was the only reply of Mr. Ben Allen.

‘Very,’ said Mr. Winkle, not much relishing this close connection of the two names.

‘I designed ‘em for each other; they were made for each other, sent into the world for each other, born for each other, Winkle,’ said Mr. Ben Allen, setting down his glass with emphasis. ‘There’s a special destiny in the matter, my dear sir; there’s only five years’ difference between ‘em, and both their birthdays are in August.’

Mr. Winkle was too anxious to hear what was to follow to express much wonderment at this extraordinary coincidence, marvellous as it was; so Mr. Ben Allen, after a tear or two, went on to say that, notwithstanding all his esteem and respect and veneration for his friend, Arabella had unaccountably and undutifully evinced the most determined antipathy to his person.

‘And I think,’ said Mr. Ben Allen, in conclusion. ‘I think there’s a prior attachment.’

‘Have you any idea who the object of it might be?’ asked Mr. Winkle, with great trepidation.

Mr. Ben Allen seized the poker, flourished it in a warlike manner above his head, inflicted a savage blow on an imaginary skull, and wound up by saying, in a very expressive manner, that he only wished he could guess; that was all.

‘I’d show him what I thought of him,’ said Mr. Ben Allen. And round went the poker again, more fiercely than before.

All this was, of course, very soothing to the feelings of Mr. Winkle, who remained silent for a few minutes; but at length mustered up resolution to inquire whether Miss Allen was in Kent.

‘No, no,’ said Mr. Ben Allen, laying aside the poker, and looking very cunning; ‘I didn’t think Wardle’s exactly the place for a headstrong girl; so, as I am her natural protector and guardian, our parents being dead, I have brought her down into this part of the country to spend a few months at an old aunt’s, in a nice, dull, close place. I think that will cure her, my boy. If it doesn’t, I’ll take her abroad for a little while, and see what that’ll do.’

‘Oh, the aunt’s is in Bristol, is it?’ faltered Mr. Winkle.

‘No, no, not in Bristol,’ replied Mr. Ben Allen, jerking his thumb over his right shoulder; ‘over that way—down there. But, hush, here’s Bob. Not a word, my dear friend, not a word.’

Short as this conversation was, it roused in Mr. Winkle the highest degree of excitement and anxiety. The suspected prior attachment rankled in his heart. Could he be the object of it? Could it be for him that the fair Arabella had looked scornfully on the sprightly Bob Sawyer, or had he a successful rival? He determined to see her, cost what it might; but here an insurmountable objection presented itself, for whether the explanatory ‘over that way,’ and ‘down there,’ of Mr. Ben Allen, meant three miles off, or thirty, or three hundred, he could in no wise guess.

But he had no opportunity of pondering over his love just then, for Bob Sawyer’s return was the immediate precursor of the arrival of a meat-pie from the baker’s, of which that gentleman insisted on his staying to partake. The cloth was laid by an occasional charwoman, who officiated in the capacity of Mr. Bob Sawyer’s housekeeper; and a third knife and fork having been borrowed from the mother of the boy in the gray livery (for Mr. Sawyer’s domestic arrangements were as yet conducted on a limited scale), they sat down to dinner; the beer being served up, as Mr. Sawyer remarked, ‘in its native pewter.’

After dinner, Mr. Bob Sawyer ordered in the largest mortar in the shop, and proceeded to brew a reeking jorum of rum-punch therein, stirring up and amalgamating the materials with a pestle in a very creditable and apothecary-like manner. Mr. Sawyer, being a bachelor, had only one tumbler in the house, which was assigned to Mr. Winkle as a compliment to the visitor, Mr. Ben Allen being accommodated with a funnel with a cork in the narrow end, and Bob Sawyer contented himself with one of those wide-lipped crystal vessels inscribed with a variety of cabalistic characters, in which chemists are wont to measure out their liquid drugs in compounding prescriptions. These preliminaries adjusted, the punch was tasted, and pronounced excellent; and it having been arranged that Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen should be considered at liberty to fill twice to Mr. Winkle’s once, they started fair, with great satisfaction and good-fellowship.

There was no singing, because Mr. Bob Sawyer said it wouldn’t look professional; but to make amends for this deprivation there was so much talking and laughing that it might have been heard, and very likely was, at the end of the street. Which conversation materially lightened the hours and improved the mind of Mr. Bob Sawyer’s boy, who, instead of devoting the evening to his ordinary occupation of writing his name on the counter, and rubbing it out again, peeped through the glass door, and thus listened and looked on at the same time.

The mirth of Mr. Bob Sawyer was rapidly ripening into the furious, Mr. Ben Allen was fast relapsing into the sentimental, and the punch had well-nigh disappeared altogether, when the boy hastily running in, announced that a young woman had just come over, to say that Sawyer late Nockemorf was wanted directly, a couple of streets off. This broke up the party. Mr. Bob Sawyer, understanding the message, after some twenty repetitions, tied a wet cloth round his head to sober himself, and, having partially succeeded, put on his green spectacles and issued forth. Resisting all entreaties to stay till he came back, and finding it quite impossible to engage Mr. Ben Allen in any intelligible conversation on the subject nearest his heart, or indeed on any other, Mr. Winkle took his departure, and returned to the Bush.

The anxiety of his mind, and the numerous meditations which Arabella had awakened, prevented his share of the mortar of punch producing that effect upon him which it would have had under other circumstances. So, after taking a glass of soda-water and brandy at the bar, he turned into the coffee-room, dispirited rather than elevated by the occurrences of the evening.

Sitting in front of the fire, with his back towards him, was a tallish gentleman in a greatcoat: the only other occupant of the room. It was rather a cool evening for the season of the year, and the gentleman drew his chair aside to afford the new-comer a sight of the fire. What were Mr. Winkle’s feelings when, in doing so, he disclosed to view the face and figure of the vindictive and sanguinary Dowler!

Mr. Winkle’s first impulse was to give a violent pull at the nearest bell-handle, but that unfortunately happened to be immediately behind Mr. Dowler’s head. He had made one step towards it, before he checked himself. As he did so, Mr. Dowler very hastily drew back.

‘Mr. Winkle, Sir. Be calm. Don’t strike me. I won’t bear it. A blow! Never!’ said Mr. Dowler, looking meeker than Mr. Winkle had expected in a gentleman of his ferocity.

‘A blow, Sir?’ stammered Mr. Winkle.

‘A blow, Sir,’ replied Dowler. ‘Compose your feelings. Sit down. Hear me.’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Winkle, trembling from head to foot, ‘before I consent to sit down beside, or opposite you, without the presence of a waiter, I must be secured by some further understanding. You used a threat against me last night, Sir, a dreadful threat, Sir.’ Here Mr. Winkle turned very pale indeed, and stopped short.

‘I did,’ said Dowler, with a countenance almost as white as Mr. Winkle’s. ‘Circumstances were suspicious. They have been explained. I respect your bravery. Your feeling is upright. Conscious innocence. There’s my hand. Grasp it.’

‘Really, Sir,’ said Mr. Winkle, hesitating whether to give his hand or not, and almost fearing that it was demanded in order that he might be taken at an advantage, ‘really, Sir, I—’

‘I know what you mean,’ interposed Dowler. ‘You feel aggrieved. Very natural. So should I. I was wrong. I beg your pardon. Be friendly. Forgive me.’ With this, Dowler fairly forced his hand upon Mr. Winkle, and shaking it with the utmost vehemence, declared he was a fellow of extreme spirit, and he had a higher opinion of him than ever.

‘Now,’ said Dowler, ‘sit down. Relate it all. How did you find me? When did you follow? Be frank. Tell me.’

‘It’s quite accidental,’ replied Mr. Winkle, greatly perplexed by the curious and unexpected nature of the interview. ‘Quite.’

‘Glad of it,’ said Dowler. ‘I woke this morning. I had forgotten my threat. I laughed at the accident. I felt friendly. I said so.’

‘To whom?’ inquired Mr. Winkle.

‘To Mrs. Dowler. “You made a vow,” said she. “I did,” said I. “It was a rash one,” said she. “It was,” said I. “I’ll apologise. Where is he?”’

‘Who?’ inquired Mr. Winkle.

‘You,’ replied Dowler. ‘I went downstairs. You were not to be found. Pickwick looked gloomy. Shook his head. Hoped no violence would be committed. I saw it all. You felt yourself insulted. You had gone, for a friend perhaps. Possibly for pistols. “High spirit,” said I. “I admire him.”’

Mr. Winkle coughed, and beginning to see how the land lay, assumed a look of importance.

‘I left a note for you,’ resumed Dowler. ‘I said I was sorry. So I was. Pressing business called me here. You were not satisfied. You followed. You required a verbal explanation. You were right. It’s all over now. My business is finished. I go back to-morrow. Join me.’

As Dowler progressed in his explanation, Mr. Winkle’s countenance grew more and more dignified. The mysterious nature of the commencement of their conversation was explained; Mr. Dowler had as great an objection to duelling as himself; in short, this blustering and awful personage was one of the most egregious cowards in existence, and interpreting Mr. Winkle’s absence through the medium of his own fears, had taken the same step as himself, and prudently retired until all excitement of feeling should have subsided.

As the real state of the case dawned upon Mr. Winkle’s mind, he looked very terrible, and said he was perfectly satisfied; but at the same time, said so with an air that left Mr. Dowler no alternative but to infer that if he had not been, something most horrible and destructive must inevitably have occurred. Mr. Dowler appeared to be impressed with a becoming sense of Mr. Winkle’s magnanimity and condescension; and the two belligerents parted for the night, with many protestations of eternal friendship.

About half-past twelve o’clock, when Mr. Winkle had been revelling some twenty minutes in the full luxury of his first sleep, he was suddenly awakened by a loud knocking at his chamber door, which, being repeated with increased vehemence, caused him to start up in bed, and inquire who was there, and what the matter was.

‘Please, Sir, here’s a young man which says he must see you directly,’ responded the voice of the chambermaid.

‘A young man!’ exclaimed Mr. Winkle.

‘No mistake about that ‘ere, Sir,’ replied another voice through the keyhole; ‘and if that wery same interestin’ young creetur ain’t let in vithout delay, it’s wery possible as his legs vill enter afore his countenance.’ The young man gave a gentle kick at one of the lower panels of the door, after he had given utterance to this hint, as if to add force and point to the remark.

‘Is that you, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Winkle, springing out of bed.

‘Quite unpossible to identify any gen’l’m’n vith any degree o’ mental satisfaction, vithout lookin’ at him, Sir,’ replied the voice dogmatically.

Mr. Winkle, not much doubting who the young man was, unlocked the door; which he had no sooner done than Mr. Samuel Weller entered with great precipitation, and carefully relocking it on the inside, deliberately put the key in his waistcoat pocket; and, after surveying Mr. Winkle from head to foot, said—

‘You’re a wery humorous young gen’l’m’n, you air, Sir!’

‘What do you mean by this conduct, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Winkle indignantly. ‘Get out, sir, this instant. What do you mean, Sir?’

‘What do I mean,’ retorted Sam; ‘come, Sir, this is rayther too rich, as the young lady said when she remonstrated with the pastry-cook, arter he’d sold her a pork pie as had got nothin’ but fat inside. What do I mean! Well, that ain’t a bad ‘un, that ain’t.’

‘Unlock that door, and leave this room immediately, Sir,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘I shall leave this here room, sir, just precisely at the wery same moment as you leaves it,’ responded Sam, speaking in a forcible manner, and seating himself with perfect gravity. ‘If I find it necessary to carry you away, pick-a-back, o’ course I shall leave it the least bit o’ time possible afore you; but allow me to express a hope as you won’t reduce me to extremities; in saying wich, I merely quote wot the nobleman said to the fractious pennywinkle, ven he vouldn’t come out of his shell by means of a pin, and he conseqvently began to be afeered that he should be obliged to crack him in the parlour door.’ At the end of this address, which was unusually lengthy for him, Mr. Weller planted his hands on his knees, and looked full in Mr. Winkle’s face, with an expression of countenance which showed that he had not the remotest intention of being trifled with.

‘You’re a amiably-disposed young man, Sir, I don’t think,’ resumed Mr. Weller, in a tone of moral reproof, ‘to go inwolving our precious governor in all sorts o’ fanteegs, wen he’s made up his mind to go through everythink for principle. You’re far worse nor Dodson, Sir; and as for Fogg, I consider him a born angel to you!’ Mr. Weller having accompanied this last sentiment with an emphatic slap on each knee, folded his arms with a look of great disgust, and threw himself back in his chair, as if awaiting the criminal’s defence.

‘My good fellow,’ said Mr. Winkle, extending his hand—his teeth chattering all the time he spoke, for he had been standing, during the whole of Mr. Weller’s lecture, in his night-gear—‘my good fellow, I respect your attachment to my excellent friend, and I am very sorry indeed to have added to his causes for disquiet. There, Sam, there!’

‘Well,’ said Sam, rather sulkily, but giving the proffered hand a respectful shake at the same time—‘well, so you ought to be, and I am very glad to find you air; for, if I can help it, I won’t have him put upon by nobody, and that’s all about it.’

‘Certainly not, Sam,’ said Mr. Winkle. ‘There! Now go to bed, Sam, and we’ll talk further about this in the morning.’

‘I’m wery sorry,’ said Sam, ‘but I can’t go to bed.’

‘Not go to bed!’ repeated Mr. Winkle.

‘No,’ said Sam, shaking his head. ‘Can’t be done.’

‘You don’t mean to say you’re going back to-night, Sam?’ urged Mr. Winkle, greatly surprised.

‘Not unless you particklerly wish it,’ replied Sam; ‘but I mustn’t leave this here room. The governor’s orders wos peremptory.’

‘Nonsense, Sam,’ said Mr. Winkle, ‘I must stop here two or three days; and more than that, Sam, you must stop here too, to assist me in gaining an interview with a young lady—Miss Allen, Sam; you remember her—whom I must and will see before I leave Bristol.’

But in reply to each of these positions, Sam shook his head with great firmness, and energetically replied, ‘It can’t be done.’

After a great deal of argument and representation on the part of Mr. Winkle, however, and a full disclosure of what had passed in the interview with Dowler, Sam began to waver; and at length a compromise was effected, of which the following were the main and principal conditions:—

That Sam should retire, and leave Mr. Winkle in the undisturbed possession of his apartment, on the condition that he had permission to lock the door on the outside, and carry off the key; provided always, that in the event of an alarm of fire, or other dangerous contingency, the door should be instantly unlocked. That a letter should be written to Mr. Pickwick early next morning, and forwarded per Dowler, requesting his consent to Sam and Mr. Winkle’s remaining at Bristol, for the purpose and with the object already assigned, and begging an answer by the next coach—, if favourable, the aforesaid parties to remain accordingly, and if not, to return to Bath immediately on the receipt thereof. And, lastly, that Mr. Winkle should be understood as distinctly pledging himself not to resort to the window, fireplace, or other surreptitious mode of escape in the meanwhile. These stipulations having been concluded, Sam locked the door and departed.

He had nearly got downstairs, when he stopped, and drew the key from his pocket.

‘I quite forgot about the knockin’ down,’ said Sam, half turning back. ‘The governor distinctly said it was to be done. Amazin’ stupid o’ me, that ‘ere! Never mind,’ said Sam, brightening up, ‘it’s easily done to-morrow, anyvays.’

Apparently much consoled by this reflection, Mr. Weller once more deposited the key in his pocket, and descending the remainder of the stairs without any fresh visitations of conscience, was soon, in common with the other inmates of the house, buried in profound repose.






CHAPTER XXXIX. MR. SAMUEL WELLER, BEING INTRUSTED WITH A MISSION OF LOVE, PROCEEDS TO EXECUTE IT; WITH WHAT SUCCESS WILL HEREINAFTER APPEAR

During the whole of next day, Sam kept Mr. Winkle steadily in sight, fully determined not to take his eyes off him for one instant, until he should receive express instructions from the fountain-head. However disagreeable Sam’s very close watch and great vigilance were to Mr. Winkle, he thought it better to bear with them, than, by any act of violent opposition, to hazard being carried away by force, which Mr. Weller more than once strongly hinted was the line of conduct that a strict sense of duty prompted him to pursue. There is little reason to doubt that Sam would very speedily have quieted his scruples, by bearing Mr. Winkle back to Bath, bound hand and foot, had not Mr. Pickwick’s prompt attention to the note, which Dowler had undertaken to deliver, forestalled any such proceeding. In short, at eight o’clock in the evening, Mr. Pickwick himself walked into the coffee-room of the Bush Tavern, and told Sam with a smile, to his very great relief, that he had done quite right, and it was unnecessary for him to mount guard any longer.

‘I thought it better to come myself,’ said Mr. Pickwick, addressing Mr. Winkle, as Sam disencumbered him of his great-coat and travelling-shawl, ‘to ascertain, before I gave my consent to Sam’s employment in this matter, that you are quite in earnest and serious, with respect to this young lady.’

‘Serious, from my heart—from my soul!’ returned Mr. Winkle, with great energy.

‘Remember,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with beaming eyes, ‘we met her at our excellent and hospitable friend’s, Winkle. It would be an ill return to tamper lightly, and without due consideration, with this young lady’s affections. I’ll not allow that, sir. I’ll not allow it.’

‘I have no such intention, indeed,’ exclaimed Mr. Winkle warmly. ‘I have considered the matter well, for a long time, and I feel that my happiness is bound up in her.’

‘That’s wot we call tying it up in a small parcel, sir,’ interposed Mr. Weller, with an agreeable smile.

Mr. Winkle looked somewhat stern at this interruption, and Mr. Pickwick angrily requested his attendant not to jest with one of the best feelings of our nature; to which Sam replied, ‘That he wouldn’t, if he was aware on it; but there were so many on ‘em, that he hardly know’d which was the best ones wen he heerd ‘em mentioned.’

Mr. Winkle then recounted what had passed between himself and Mr. Ben Allen, relative to Arabella; stated that his object was to gain an interview with the young lady, and make a formal disclosure of his passion; and declared his conviction, founded on certain dark hints and mutterings of the aforesaid Ben, that, wherever she was at present immured, it was somewhere near the Downs. And this was his whole stock of knowledge or suspicion on the subject.

With this very slight clue to guide him, it was determined that Mr. Weller should start next morning on an expedition of discovery; it was also arranged that Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle, who were less confident of their powers, should parade the town meanwhile, and accidentally drop in upon Mr. Bob Sawyer in the course of the day, in the hope of seeing or hearing something of the young lady’s whereabouts.

Accordingly, next morning, Sam Weller issued forth upon his quest, in no way daunted by the very discouraging prospect before him; and away he walked, up one street and down another—we were going to say, up one hill and down another, only it’s all uphill at Clifton—without meeting with anything or anybody that tended to throw the faintest light on the matter in hand. Many were the colloquies into which Sam entered with grooms who were airing horses on roads, and nursemaids who were airing children in lanes; but nothing could Sam elicit from either the first-mentioned or the last, which bore the slightest reference to the object of his artfully-prosecuted inquiries. There were a great many young ladies in a great many houses, the greater part whereof were shrewdly suspected by the male and female domestics to be deeply attached to somebody, or perfectly ready to become so, if opportunity afforded. But as none among these young ladies was Miss Arabella Allen, the information left Sam at exactly the old point of wisdom at which he had stood before.

Sam struggled across the Downs against a good high wind, wondering whether it was always necessary to hold your hat on with both hands in that part of the country, and came to a shady by-place, about which were sprinkled several little villas of quiet and secluded appearance. Outside a stable door at the bottom of a long back lane without a thoroughfare, a groom in undress was idling about, apparently persuading himself that he was doing something with a spade and a wheel-barrow. We may remark, in this place, that we have scarcely ever seen a groom near a stable, in his lazy moments, who has not been, to a greater or less extent, the victim of this singular delusion.

Sam thought he might as well talk to this groom as to any one else, especially as he was very tired with walking, and there was a good large stone just opposite the wheel-barrow; so he strolled down the lane, and, seating himself on the stone, opened a conversation with the ease and freedom for which he was remarkable.

‘Mornin’, old friend,’ said Sam.

‘Arternoon, you mean,’ replied the groom, casting a surly look at Sam.

‘You’re wery right, old friend,’ said Sam; ‘I do mean arternoon. How are you?’

‘Why, I don’t find myself much the better for seeing of you,’ replied the ill-tempered groom.

‘That’s wery odd—that is,’ said Sam, ‘for you look so uncommon cheerful, and seem altogether so lively, that it does vun’s heart good to see you.’

The surly groom looked surlier still at this, but not sufficiently so to produce any effect upon Sam, who immediately inquired, with a countenance of great anxiety, whether his master’s name was not Walker.

‘No, it ain’t,’ said the groom.

‘Nor Brown, I s’pose?’ said Sam.

‘No, it ain’t.’

‘Nor Vilson?’

‘No; nor that either,’ said the groom.

‘Vell,’ replied Sam, ‘then I’m mistaken, and he hasn’t got the honour o’ my acquaintance, which I thought he had. Don’t wait here out o’ compliment to me,’ said Sam, as the groom wheeled in the barrow, and prepared to shut the gate. ‘Ease afore ceremony, old boy; I’ll excuse you.’

‘I’d knock your head off for half-a-crown,’ said the surly groom, bolting one half of the gate.

‘Couldn’t afford to have it done on those terms,’ rejoined Sam. ‘It ‘ud be worth a life’s board wages at least, to you, and ‘ud be cheap at that. Make my compliments indoors. Tell ‘em not to vait dinner for me, and say they needn’t mind puttin’ any by, for it’ll be cold afore I come in.’

In reply to this, the groom waxing very wroth, muttered a desire to damage somebody’s person; but disappeared without carrying it into execution, slamming the door angrily after him, and wholly unheeding Sam’s affectionate request, that he would leave him a lock of his hair before he went.

Sam continued to sit on the large stone, meditating upon what was best to be done, and revolving in his mind a plan for knocking at all the doors within five miles of Bristol, taking them at a hundred and fifty or two hundred a day, and endeavouring to find Miss Arabella by that expedient, when accident all of a sudden threw in his way what he might have sat there for a twelvemonth and yet not found without it.

Into the lane where he sat, there opened three or four garden gates, belonging to as many houses, which though detached from each other, were only separated by their gardens. As these were large and long, and well planted with trees, the houses were not only at some distance off, but the greater part of them were nearly concealed from view. Sam was sitting with his eyes fixed upon the dust-heap outside the next gate to that by which the groom had disappeared, profoundly turning over in his mind the difficulties of his present undertaking, when the gate opened, and a female servant came out into the lane to shake some bedside carpets.

Sam was so very busy with his own thoughts, that it is probable he would have taken no more notice of the young woman than just raising his head and remarking that she had a very neat and pretty figure, if his feelings of gallantry had not been most strongly roused by observing that she had no one to help her, and that the carpets seemed too heavy for her single strength. Mr. Weller was a gentleman of great gallantry in his own way, and he no sooner remarked this circumstance than he hastily rose from the large stone, and advanced towards her.

‘My dear,’ said Sam, sliding up with an air of great respect, ‘you’ll spile that wery pretty figure out o’ all perportion if you shake them carpets by yourself. Let me help you.’

The young lady, who had been coyly affecting not to know that a gentleman was so near, turned round as Sam spoke—no doubt (indeed she said so, afterwards) to decline this offer from a perfect stranger—when instead of speaking, she started back, and uttered a half-suppressed scream. Sam was scarcely less staggered, for in the countenance of the well-shaped female servant, he beheld the very features of his valentine, the pretty housemaid from Mr. Nupkins’s.

‘Wy, Mary, my dear!’ said Sam.

‘Lauk, Mr. Weller,’ said Mary, ‘how you do frighten one!’

Sam made no verbal answer to this complaint, nor can we precisely say what reply he did make. We merely know that after a short pause Mary said, ‘Lor, do adun, Mr. Weller!’ and that his hat had fallen off a few moments before—from both of which tokens we should be disposed to infer that one kiss, or more, had passed between the parties.

‘Why, how did you come here?’ said Mary, when the conversation to which this interruption had been offered, was resumed.

‘O’ course I came to look arter you, my darlin’,’ replied Mr. Weller; for once permitting his passion to get the better of his veracity.

‘And how did you know I was here?’ inquired Mary. ‘Who could have told you that I took another service at Ipswich, and that they afterwards moved all the way here? Who could have told you that, Mr. Weller?’

‘Ah, to be sure,’ said Sam, with a cunning look, ‘that’s the pint. Who could ha’ told me?’

‘It wasn’t Mr. Muzzle, was it?’ inquired Mary.

‘Oh, no.’ replied Sam, with a solemn shake of the head, ‘it warn’t him.’

‘It must have been the cook,’ said Mary.

‘O’ course it must,’ said Sam.

‘Well, I never heard the like of that!’ exclaimed Mary.

‘No more did I,’ said Sam. ‘But Mary, my dear’—here Sam’s manner grew extremely affectionate—‘Mary, my dear, I’ve got another affair in hand as is wery pressin’. There’s one o’ my governor’s friends—Mr. Winkle, you remember him?’

‘Him in the green coat?’ said Mary. ‘Oh, yes, I remember him.’

‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘he’s in a horrid state o’ love; reg’larly comfoozled, and done over vith it.’

‘Lor!’ interposed Mary.

‘Yes,’ said Sam; ‘but that’s nothin’ if we could find out the young ‘ooman;’ and here Sam, with many digressions upon the personal beauty of Mary, and the unspeakable tortures he had experienced since he last saw her, gave a faithful account of Mr. Winkle’s present predicament.

‘Well,’ said Mary, ‘I never did!’

‘O’ course not,’ said Sam, ‘and nobody never did, nor never vill neither; and here am I a-walkin’ about like the wandering Jew—a sportin’ character you have perhaps heerd on Mary, my dear, as vos alvays doin’ a match agin’ time, and never vent to sleep—looking arter this here Miss Arabella Allen.’

‘Miss who?’ said Mary, in great astonishment.

‘Miss Arabella Allen,’ said Sam.

‘Goodness gracious!’ said Mary, pointing to the garden door which the sulky groom had locked after him. ‘Why, it’s that very house; she’s been living there these six weeks. Their upper house-maid, which is lady’s-maid too, told me all about it over the wash-house palin’s before the family was out of bed, one mornin’.’

‘Wot, the wery next door to you?’ said Sam.

‘The very next,’ replied Mary.

Mr. Weller was so deeply overcome on receiving this intelligence that he found it absolutely necessary to cling to his fair informant for support; and divers little love passages had passed between them, before he was sufficiently collected to return to the subject.

‘Vell,’ said Sam at length, ‘if this don’t beat cock-fightin’ nothin’ never vill, as the lord mayor said, ven the chief secretary o’ state proposed his missis’s health arter dinner. That wery next house! Wy, I’ve got a message to her as I’ve been a-trying all day to deliver.’

‘Ah,’ said Mary, ‘but you can’t deliver it now, because she only walks in the garden in the evening, and then only for a very little time; she never goes out, without the old lady.’

Sam ruminated for a few moments, and finally hit upon the following plan of operations; that he should return just at dusk—the time at which Arabella invariably took her walk—and, being admitted by Mary into the garden of the house to which she belonged, would contrive to scramble up the wall, beneath the overhanging boughs of a large pear-tree, which would effectually screen him from observation; would there deliver his message, and arrange, if possible, an interview on behalf of Mr. Winkle for the ensuing evening at the same hour. Having made this arrangement with great despatch, he assisted Mary in the long-deferred occupation of shaking the carpets.

It is not half as innocent a thing as it looks, that shaking little pieces of carpet—at least, there may be no great harm in the shaking, but the folding is a very insidious process. So long as the shaking lasts, and the two parties are kept the carpet’s length apart, it is as innocent an amusement as can well be devised; but when the folding begins, and the distance between them gets gradually lessened from one half its former length to a quarter, and then to an eighth, and then to a sixteenth, and then to a thirty-second, if the carpet be long enough, it becomes dangerous. We do not know, to a nicety, how many pieces of carpet were folded in this instance, but we can venture to state that as many pieces as there were, so many times did Sam kiss the pretty housemaid.

Mr. Weller regaled himself with moderation at the nearest tavern until it was nearly dusk, and then returned to the lane without the thoroughfare. Having been admitted into the garden by Mary, and having received from that lady sundry admonitions concerning the safety of his limbs and neck, Sam mounted into the pear-tree, to wait until Arabella should come into sight.

He waited so long without this anxiously-expected event occurring, that he began to think it was not going to take place at all, when he heard light footsteps upon the gravel, and immediately afterwards beheld Arabella walking pensively down the garden. As soon as she came nearly below the tree, Sam began, by way of gently indicating his presence, to make sundry diabolical noises similar to those which would probably be natural to a person of middle age who had been afflicted with a combination of inflammatory sore throat, croup, and whooping-cough, from his earliest infancy.

Upon this, the young lady cast a hurried glance towards the spot whence the dreadful sounds proceeded; and her previous alarm being not at all diminished when she saw a man among the branches, she would most certainly have decamped, and alarmed the house, had not fear fortunately deprived her of the power of moving, and caused her to sink down on a garden seat, which happened by good luck to be near at hand.

‘She’s a-goin’ off,’ soliloquised Sam in great perplexity. ‘Wot a thing it is, as these here young creeturs will go a-faintin’ avay just ven they oughtn’t to. Here, young ‘ooman, Miss Sawbones, Mrs. Vinkle, don’t!’

Whether it was the magic of Mr. Winkle’s name, or the coolness of the open air, or some recollection of Mr. Weller’s voice, that revived Arabella, matters not. She raised her head and languidly inquired, ‘Who’s that, and what do you want?’

‘Hush,’ said Sam, swinging himself on to the wall, and crouching there in as small a compass as he could reduce himself to, ‘only me, miss, only me.’

‘Mr. Pickwick’s servant!’ said Arabella earnestly.

‘The wery same, miss,’ replied Sam. ‘Here’s Mr. Vinkle reg’larly sewed up vith desperation, miss.’

‘Ah!’ said Arabella, drawing nearer the wall.

‘Ah, indeed,’ said Sam. ‘Ve thought ve should ha’ been obliged to strait-veskit him last night; he’s been a-ravin’ all day; and he says if he can’t see you afore to-morrow night’s over, he vishes he may be somethin’ unpleasanted if he don’t drownd hisself.’

‘Oh, no, no, Mr. Weller!’ said Arabella, clasping her hands.

‘That’s wot he says, miss,’ replied Sam coolly. ‘He’s a man of his word, and it’s my opinion he’ll do it, miss. He’s heerd all about you from the sawbones in barnacles.’

‘From my brother!’ said Arabella, having some faint recognition of Sam’s description.

‘I don’t rightly know which is your brother, miss,’ replied Sam. ‘Is it the dirtiest vun o’ the two?’

‘Yes, yes, Mr. Weller,’ returned Arabella, ‘go on. Make haste, pray.’

‘Well, miss,’ said Sam, ‘he’s heerd all about it from him; and it’s the gov’nor’s opinion that if you don’t see him wery quick, the sawbones as we’ve been a-speakin’ on, ‘ull get as much extra lead in his head as’ll rayther damage the dewelopment o’ the orgins if they ever put it in spirits artervards.’

‘Oh, what can I do to prevent these dreadful quarrels!’ exclaimed Arabella.

‘It’s the suspicion of a priory ‘tachment as is the cause of it all,’ replied Sam. ‘You’d better see him, miss.’

‘But how?—where?’ cried Arabella. ‘I dare not leave the house alone. My brother is so unkind, so unreasonable! I know how strange my talking thus to you may appear, Mr. Weller, but I am very, very unhappy—’ and here poor Arabella wept so bitterly that Sam grew chivalrous.

‘It may seem wery strange talkin’ to me about these here affairs, miss,’ said Sam, with great vehemence; ‘but all I can say is, that I’m not only ready but villin’ to do anythin’ as’ll make matters agreeable; and if chuckin’ either o’ them sawboneses out o’ winder ‘ull do it, I’m the man.’ As Sam Weller said this, he tucked up his wristbands, at the imminent hazard of falling off the wall in so doing, to intimate his readiness to set to work immediately.

Flattering as these professions of good feeling were, Arabella resolutely declined (most unaccountably, as Sam thought) to avail herself of them. For some time she strenuously refused to grant Mr. Winkle the interview Sam had so pathetically requested; but at length, when the conversation threatened to be interrupted by the unwelcome arrival of a third party, she hurriedly gave him to understand, with many professions of gratitude, that it was barely possible she might be in the garden an hour later, next evening. Sam understood this perfectly well; and Arabella, bestowing upon him one of her sweetest smiles, tripped gracefully away, leaving Mr. Weller in a state of very great admiration of her charms, both personal and mental.

Having descended in safety from the wall, and not forgotten to devote a few moments to his own particular business in the same department, Mr. Weller then made the best of his way back to the Bush, where his prolonged absence had occasioned much speculation and some alarm.

‘We must be careful,’ said Mr. Pickwick, after listening attentively to Sam’s tale, ‘not for our sakes, but for that of the young lady. We must be very cautious.’

‘We!’ said Mr. Winkle, with marked emphasis.

Mr. Pickwick’s momentary look of indignation at the tone of this remark, subsided into his characteristic expression of benevolence, as he replied—

‘We, Sir! I shall accompany you.’

‘You!’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘I,’ replied Mr. Pickwick mildly. ‘In affording you this interview, the young lady has taken a natural, perhaps, but still a very imprudent step. If I am present at the meeting—a mutual friend, who is old enough to be the father of both parties—the voice of calumny can never be raised against her hereafter.’

Mr. Pickwick’s eyes lightened with honest exultation at his own foresight, as he spoke thus. Mr. Winkle was touched by this little trait of his delicate respect for the young protegee of his friend, and took his hand with a feeling of regard, akin to veneration.

‘You SHALL go,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘I will,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Sam, have my greatcoat and shawl ready, and order a conveyance to be at the door to-morrow evening, rather earlier than is absolutely necessary, in order that we may be in good time.’

Mr. Weller touched his hat, as an earnest of his obedience, and withdrew to make all needful preparations for the expedition.

The coach was punctual to the time appointed; and Mr. Weller, after duly installing Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle inside, took his seat on the box by the driver. They alighted, as had been agreed on, about a quarter of a mile from the place of rendezvous, and desiring the coachman to await their return, proceeded the remaining distance on foot.

It was at this stage of the undertaking that Mr. Pickwick, with many smiles and various other indications of great self-satisfaction, produced from one of his coat pockets a dark lantern, with which he had specially provided himself for the occasion, and the great mechanical beauty of which he proceeded to explain to Mr. Winkle, as they walked along, to the no small surprise of the few stragglers they met.

‘I should have been the better for something of this kind, in my last garden expedition, at night; eh, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking good-humouredly round at his follower, who was trudging behind.

‘Wery nice things, if they’re managed properly, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘but wen you don’t want to be seen, I think they’re more useful arter the candle’s gone out, than wen it’s alight.’

Mr. Pickwick appeared struck by Sam’s remarks, for he put the lantern into his pocket again, and they walked on in silence.

‘Down here, Sir,’ said Sam. ‘Let me lead the way. This is the lane, Sir.’

Down the lane they went, and dark enough it was. Mr. Pickwick brought out the lantern, once or twice, as they groped their way along, and threw a very brilliant little tunnel of light before them, about a foot in diameter. It was very pretty to look at, but seemed to have the effect of rendering surrounding objects rather darker than before.

At length they arrived at the large stone. Here Sam recommended his master and Mr. Winkle to seat themselves, while he reconnoitred, and ascertained whether Mary was yet in waiting.

After an absence of five or ten minutes, Sam returned to say that the gate was opened, and all quiet. Following him with stealthy tread, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle soon found themselves in the garden. Here everybody said, ‘Hush!’ a good many times; and that being done, no one seemed to have any very distinct apprehension of what was to be done next.

‘Is Miss Allen in the garden yet, Mary?’ inquired Mr. Winkle, much agitated.

‘I don’t know, sir,’ replied the pretty housemaid. ‘The best thing to be done, sir, will be for Mr. Weller to give you a hoist up into the tree, and perhaps Mr. Pickwick will have the goodness to see that nobody comes up the lane, while I watch at the other end of the garden. Goodness gracious, what’s that?’

‘That ‘ere blessed lantern ‘ull be the death on us all,’ exclaimed Sam peevishly. ‘Take care wot you’re a-doin’ on, sir; you’re a-sendin’ a blaze o’ light, right into the back parlour winder.’

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Pickwick, turning hastily aside, ‘I didn’t mean to do that.’

‘Now, it’s in the next house, sir,’ remonstrated Sam.

‘Bless my heart!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning round again.

‘Now, it’s in the stable, and they’ll think the place is afire,’ said Sam. ‘Shut it up, sir, can’t you?’

‘It’s the most extraordinary lantern I ever met with, in all my life!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, greatly bewildered by the effects he had so unintentionally produced. ‘I never saw such a powerful reflector.’

‘It’ll be vun too powerful for us, if you keep blazin’ avay in that manner, sir,’ replied Sam, as Mr. Pickwick, after various unsuccessful efforts, managed to close the slide. ‘There’s the young lady’s footsteps. Now, Mr. Winkle, sir, up vith you.’

‘Stop, stop!’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I must speak to her first. Help me up, Sam.’

‘Gently, Sir,’ said Sam, planting his head against the wall, and making a platform of his back. ‘Step atop o’ that ‘ere flower-pot, Sir. Now then, up vith you.’

‘I’m afraid I shall hurt you, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Never mind me, Sir,’ replied Sam. ‘Lend him a hand, Mr. Winkle, sir. Steady, sir, steady! That’s the time o’ day!’

As Sam spoke, Mr. Pickwick, by exertions almost supernatural in a gentleman of his years and weight, contrived to get upon Sam’s back; and Sam gently raising himself up, and Mr. Pickwick holding on fast by the top of the wall, while Mr. Winkle clasped him tight by the legs, they contrived by these means to bring his spectacles just above the level of the coping.

‘My dear,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking over the wall, and catching sight of Arabella, on the other side, ‘don’t be frightened, my dear, it’s only me.’ ‘Oh, pray go away, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Arabella. ‘Tell them all to go away. I am so dreadfully frightened. Dear, dear Mr. Pickwick, don’t stop there. You’ll fall down and kill yourself, I know you will.’

‘Now, pray don’t alarm yourself, my dear,’ said Mr. Pickwick soothingly. ‘There is not the least cause for fear, I assure you. Stand firm, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking down.

‘All right, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Don’t be longer than you can conweniently help, sir. You’re rayther heavy.’

‘Only another moment, Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘I merely wished you to know, my dear, that I should not have allowed my young friend to see you in this clandestine way, if the situation in which you are placed had left him any alternative; and, lest the impropriety of this step should cause you any uneasiness, my love, it may be a satisfaction to you, to know that I am present. That’s all, my dear.’

‘Indeed, Mr. Pickwick, I am very much obliged to you for your kindness and consideration,’ replied Arabella, drying her tears with her handkerchief. She would probably have said much more, had not Mr. Pickwick’s head disappeared with great swiftness, in consequence of a false step on Sam’s shoulder which brought him suddenly to the ground. He was up again in an instant however; and bidding Mr. Winkle make haste and get the interview over, ran out into the lane to keep watch, with all the courage and ardour of youth. Mr. Winkle himself, inspired by the occasion, was on the wall in a moment, merely pausing to request Sam to be careful of his master.

‘I’ll take care on him, sir,’ replied Sam. ‘Leave him to me.’

‘Where is he? What’s he doing, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Winkle.

‘Bless his old gaiters,’ rejoined Sam, looking out at the garden door. ‘He’s a-keepin’ guard in the lane vith that ‘ere dark lantern, like a amiable Guy Fawkes! I never see such a fine creetur in my days. Blessed if I don’t think his heart must ha’ been born five-and-twenty year arter his body, at least!’

Mr. Winkle stayed not to hear the encomium upon his friend. He had dropped from the wall; thrown himself at Arabella’s feet; and by this time was pleading the sincerity of his passion with an eloquence worthy even of Mr. Pickwick himself.

While these things were going on in the open air, an elderly gentleman of scientific attainments was seated in his library, two or three houses off, writing a philosophical treatise, and ever and anon moistening his clay and his labours with a glass of claret from a venerable-looking bottle which stood by his side. In the agonies of composition, the elderly gentleman looked sometimes at the carpet, sometimes at the ceiling, and sometimes at the wall; and when neither carpet, ceiling, nor wall afforded the requisite degree of inspiration, he looked out of the window.

In one of these pauses of invention, the scientific gentleman was gazing abstractedly on the thick darkness outside, when he was very much surprised by observing a most brilliant light glide through the air, at a short distance above the ground, and almost instantaneously vanish. After a short time the phenomenon was repeated, not once or twice, but several times; at last the scientific gentleman, laying down his pen, began to consider to what natural causes these appearances were to be assigned.

They were not meteors; they were too low. They were not glow-worms; they were too high. They were not will-o’-the-wisps; they were not fireflies; they were not fireworks. What could they be? Some extraordinary and wonderful phenomenon of nature, which no philosopher had ever seen before; something which it had been reserved for him alone to discover, and which he should immortalise his name by chronicling for the benefit of posterity. Full of this idea, the scientific gentleman seized his pen again, and committed to paper sundry notes of these unparalleled appearances, with the date, day, hour, minute, and precise second at which they were visible: all of which were to form the data of a voluminous treatise of great research and deep learning, which should astonish all the atmospherical wiseacres that ever drew breath in any part of the civilised globe.

He threw himself back in his easy-chair, wrapped in contemplations of his future greatness. The mysterious light appeared more brilliantly than before, dancing, to all appearance, up and down the lane, crossing from side to side, and moving in an orbit as eccentric as comets themselves.

The scientific gentleman was a bachelor. He had no wife to call in and astonish, so he rang the bell for his servant.

‘Pruffle,’ said the scientific gentleman, ‘there is something very extraordinary in the air to-night? Did you see that?’ said the scientific gentleman, pointing out of the window, as the light again became visible.

‘Yes, I did, Sir.’

‘What do you think of it, Pruffle?’

‘Think of it, Sir?’

‘Yes. You have been bred up in this country. What should you say was the cause for those lights, now?’

The scientific gentleman smilingly anticipated Pruffle’s reply that he could assign no cause for them at all. Pruffle meditated.

‘I should say it was thieves, Sir,’ said Pruffle at length.

‘You’re a fool, and may go downstairs,’ said the scientific gentleman.

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Pruffle. And down he went.

But the scientific gentleman could not rest under the idea of the ingenious treatise he had projected being lost to the world, which must inevitably be the case if the speculation of the ingenious Mr. Pruffle were not stifled in its birth. He put on his hat and walked quickly down the garden, determined to investigate the matter to the very bottom.

Now, shortly before the scientific gentleman walked out into the garden, Mr. Pickwick had run down the lane as fast as he could, to convey a false alarm that somebody was coming that way; occasionally drawing back the slide of the dark lantern to keep himself from the ditch. The alarm was no sooner given, than Mr. Winkle scrambled back over the wall, and Arabella ran into the house; the garden gate was shut, and the three adventurers were making the best of their way down the lane, when they were startled by the scientific gentleman unlocking his garden gate.

‘Hold hard,’ whispered Sam, who was, of course, the first of the party. ‘Show a light for just vun second, Sir.’

Mr. Pickwick did as he was desired, and Sam, seeing a man’s head peeping out very cautiously within half a yard of his own, gave it a gentle tap with his clenched fist, which knocked it, with a hollow sound, against the gate. Having performed this feat with great suddenness and dexterity, Mr. Weller caught Mr. Pickwick up on his back, and followed Mr. Winkle down the lane at a pace which, considering the burden he carried, was perfectly astonishing.

‘Have you got your vind back agin, Sir,’ inquired Sam, when they had reached the end.

‘Quite. Quite, now,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Then come along, Sir,’ said Sam, setting his master on his feet again. ‘Come betveen us, sir. Not half a mile to run. Think you’re vinnin’ a cup, sir. Now for it.’

Thus encouraged, Mr. Pickwick made the very best use of his legs. It may be confidently stated that a pair of black gaiters never got over the ground in better style than did those of Mr. Pickwick on this memorable occasion.

The coach was waiting, the horses were fresh, the roads were good, and the driver was willing. The whole party arrived in safety at the Bush before Mr. Pickwick had recovered his breath.

‘In with you at once, sir,’ said Sam, as he helped his master out. ‘Don’t stop a second in the street, arter that ‘ere exercise. Beg your pardon, sir,’ continued Sam, touching his hat as Mr. Winkle descended, ‘hope there warn’t a priory ‘tachment, sir?’

Mr. Winkle grasped his humble friend by the hand, and whispered in his ear, ‘It’s all right, Sam; quite right.’ Upon which Mr. Weller struck three distinct blows upon his nose in token of intelligence, smiled, winked, and proceeded to put the steps up, with a countenance expressive of lively satisfaction.

As to the scientific gentleman, he demonstrated, in a masterly treatise, that these wonderful lights were the effect of electricity; and clearly proved the same by detailing how a flash of fire danced before his eyes when he put his head out of the gate, and how he received a shock which stunned him for a quarter of an hour afterwards; which demonstration delighted all the scientific associations beyond measure, and caused him to be considered a light of science ever afterwards.






CHAPTER XL. INTRODUCES MR. PICKWICK TO A NEW AND NOT UNINTERESTING SCENE IN THE GREAT DRAMA OF LIFE

The remainder of the period which Mr. Pickwick had assigned as the duration of the stay at Bath passed over without the occurrence of anything material. Trinity term commenced. On the expiration of its first week, Mr. Pickwick and his friends returned to London; and the former gentleman, attended of course by Sam, straightway repaired to his old quarters at the George and Vulture.

On the third morning after their arrival, just as all the clocks in the city were striking nine individually, and somewhere about nine hundred and ninety-nine collectively, Sam was taking the air in George Yard, when a queer sort of fresh-painted vehicle drove up, out of which there jumped with great agility, throwing the reins to a stout man who sat beside him, a queer sort of gentleman, who seemed made for the vehicle, and the vehicle for him.

The vehicle was not exactly a gig, neither was it a stanhope. It was not what is currently denominated a dog-cart, neither was it a taxed cart, nor a chaise-cart, nor a guillotined cabriolet; and yet it had something of the character of each and every of these machines. It was painted a bright yellow, with the shafts and wheels picked out in black; and the driver sat in the orthodox sporting style, on cushions piled about two feet above the rail. The horse was a bay, a well-looking animal enough; but with something of a flash and dog-fighting air about him, nevertheless, which accorded both with the vehicle and his master.

The master himself was a man of about forty, with black hair, and carefully combed whiskers. He was dressed in a particularly gorgeous manner, with plenty of articles of jewellery about him—all about three sizes larger than those which are usually worn by gentlemen—and a rough greatcoat to crown the whole. Into one pocket of this greatcoat, he thrust his left hand the moment he dismounted, while from the other he drew forth, with his right, a very bright and glaring silk handkerchief, with which he whisked a speck or two of dust from his boots, and then, crumpling it in his hand, swaggered up the court.

It had not escaped Sam’s attention that, when this person dismounted, a shabby-looking man in a brown greatcoat shorn of divers buttons, who had been previously slinking about, on the opposite side of the way, crossed over, and remained stationary close by. Having something more than a suspicion of the object of the gentleman’s visit, Sam preceded him to the George and Vulture, and, turning sharp round, planted himself in the centre of the doorway.

‘Now, my fine fellow!’ said the man in the rough coat, in an imperious tone, attempting at the same time to push his way past.

‘Now, Sir, wot’s the matter?’ replied Sam, returning the push with compound interest.

‘Come, none of this, my man; this won’t do with me,’ said the owner of the rough coat, raising his voice, and turning white. ‘Here, Smouch!’

‘Well, wot’s amiss here?’ growled the man in the brown coat, who had been gradually sneaking up the court during this short dialogue.

‘Only some insolence of this young man’s,’ said the principal, giving Sam another push.

‘Come, none o’ this gammon,’ growled Smouch, giving him another, and a harder one.

This last push had the effect which it was intended by the experienced Mr. Smouch to produce; for while Sam, anxious to return the compliment, was grinding that gentleman’s body against the door-post, the principal crept past, and made his way to the bar, whither Sam, after bandying a few epithetical remarks with Mr. Smouch, followed at once.

‘Good-morning, my dear,’ said the principal, addressing the young lady at the bar, with Botany Bay ease, and New South Wales gentility; ‘which is Mr. Pickwick’s room, my dear?’

‘Show him up,’ said the barmaid to a waiter, without deigning another look at the exquisite, in reply to his inquiry.

The waiter led the way upstairs as he was desired, and the man in the rough coat followed, with Sam behind him, who, in his progress up the staircase, indulged in sundry gestures indicative of supreme contempt and defiance, to the unspeakable gratification of the servants and other lookers-on. Mr. Smouch, who was troubled with a hoarse cough, remained below, and expectorated in the passage.

Mr. Pickwick was fast asleep in bed, when his early visitor, followed by Sam, entered the room. The noise they made, in so doing, awoke him.

‘Shaving-water, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, from within the curtains.

‘Shave you directly, Mr. Pickwick,’ said the visitor, drawing one of them back from the bed’s head. ‘I’ve got an execution against you, at the suit of Bardell.—Here’s the warrant.—Common Pleas.—Here’s my card. I suppose you’ll come over to my house.’ Giving Mr. Pickwick a friendly tap on the shoulder, the sheriff’s officer (for such he was) threw his card on the counterpane, and pulled a gold toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.

‘Namby’s the name,’ said the sheriff’s deputy, as Mr. Pickwick took his spectacles from under the pillow, and put them on, to read the card. ‘Namby, Bell Alley, Coleman Street.’

At this point, Sam Weller, who had had his eyes fixed hitherto on Mr. Namby’s shining beaver, interfered.

‘Are you a Quaker?’ said Sam.

‘I’ll let you know I am, before I’ve done with you,’ replied the indignant officer. ‘I’ll teach you manners, my fine fellow, one of these fine mornings.’

‘Thank’ee,’ said Sam. ‘I’ll do the same to you. Take your hat off.’ With this, Mr. Weller, in the most dexterous manner, knocked Mr. Namby’s hat to the other side of the room, with such violence, that he had very nearly caused him to swallow the gold toothpick into the bargain.

‘Observe this, Mr. Pickwick,’ said the disconcerted officer, gasping for breath. ‘I’ve been assaulted in the execution of my dooty by your servant in your chamber. I’m in bodily fear. I call you to witness this.’

‘Don’t witness nothin’, Sir,’ interposed Sam. ‘Shut your eyes up tight, Sir. I’d pitch him out o’ winder, only he couldn’t fall far enough, ‘cause o’ the leads outside.’

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, in an angry voice, as his attendant made various demonstrations of hostilities, ‘if you say another word, or offer the slightest interference with this person, I discharge you that instant.’

‘But, Sir!’ said Sam.

‘Hold your tongue,’ interposed Mr. Pickwick. ‘Take that hat up again.’

But this Sam flatly and positively refused to do; and, after he had been severely reprimanded by his master, the officer, being in a hurry, condescended to pick it up himself, venting a great variety of threats against Sam meanwhile, which that gentleman received with perfect composure, merely observing that if Mr. Namby would have the goodness to put his hat on again, he would knock it into the latter end of next week. Mr. Namby, perhaps thinking that such a process might be productive of inconvenience to himself, declined to offer the temptation, and, soon after, called up Smouch. Having informed him that the capture was made, and that he was to wait for the prisoner until he should have finished dressing, Namby then swaggered out, and drove away. Smouch, requesting Mr. Pickwick in a surly manner ‘to be as alive as he could, for it was a busy time,’ drew up a chair by the door and sat there, until he had finished dressing. Sam was then despatched for a hackney-coach, and in it the triumvirate proceeded to Coleman Street. It was fortunate the distance was short; for Mr. Smouch, besides possessing no very enchanting conversational powers, was rendered a decidedly unpleasant companion in a limited space, by the physical weakness to which we have elsewhere adverted.

The coach having turned into a very narrow and dark street, stopped before a house with iron bars to all the windows; the door-posts of which were graced by the name and title of ‘Namby, Officer to the Sheriffs of London’; the inner gate having been opened by a gentleman who might have passed for a neglected twin-brother of Mr. Smouch, and who was endowed with a large key for the purpose, Mr. Pickwick was shown into the ‘coffee-room.’

This coffee-room was a front parlour, the principal features of which were fresh sand and stale tobacco smoke. Mr. Pickwick bowed to the three persons who were seated in it when he entered; and having despatched Sam for Perker, withdrew into an obscure corner, and looked thence with some curiosity upon his new companions.

One of these was a mere boy of nineteen or twenty, who, though it was yet barely ten o’clock, was drinking gin-and-water, and smoking a cigar—amusements to which, judging from his inflamed countenance, he had devoted himself pretty constantly for the last year or two of his life. Opposite him, engaged in stirring the fire with the toe of his right boot, was a coarse, vulgar young man of about thirty, with a sallow face and harsh voice; evidently possessed of that knowledge of the world, and captivating freedom of manner, which is to be acquired in public-house parlours, and at low billiard tables. The third tenant of the apartment was a middle-aged man in a very old suit of black, who looked pale and haggard, and paced up and down the room incessantly; stopping, now and then, to look with great anxiety out of the window as if he expected somebody, and then resuming his walk.

‘You’d better have the loan of my razor this morning, Mr. Ayresleigh,’ said the man who was stirring the fire, tipping the wink to his friend the boy.

‘Thank you, no, I shan’t want it; I expect I shall be out, in the course of an hour or so,’ replied the other in a hurried manner. Then, walking again up to the window, and once more returning disappointed, he sighed deeply, and left the room; upon which the other two burst into a loud laugh.

‘Well, I never saw such a game as that,’ said the gentleman who had offered the razor, whose name appeared to be Price. ‘Never!’ Mr. Price confirmed the assertion with an oath, and then laughed again, when of course the boy (who thought his companion one of the most dashing fellows alive) laughed also.

‘You’d hardly think, would you now,’ said Price, turning towards Mr. Pickwick, ‘that that chap’s been here a week yesterday, and never once shaved himself yet, because he feels so certain he’s going out in half an hour’s time, thinks he may as well put it off till he gets home?’

‘Poor man!’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Are his chances of getting out of his difficulties really so great?’

‘Chances be d——d,’ replied Price; ‘he hasn’t half the ghost of one. I wouldn’t give that for his chance of walking about the streets this time ten years.’ With this, Mr. Price snapped his fingers contemptuously, and rang the bell.

‘Give me a sheet of paper, Crookey,’ said Mr. Price to the attendant, who in dress and general appearance looked something between a bankrupt glazier, and a drover in a state of insolvency; ‘and a glass of brandy-and-water, Crookey, d’ye hear? I’m going to write to my father, and I must have a stimulant, or I shan’t be able to pitch it strong enough into the old boy.’ At this facetious speech, the young boy, it is almost needless to say, was fairly convulsed.

‘That’s right,’ said Mr. Price. ‘Never say die. All fun, ain’t it?’

‘Prime!’ said the young gentleman.

‘You’ve got some spirit about you, you have,’ said Price. ‘You’ve seen something of life.’

‘I rather think I have!’ replied the boy. He had looked at it through the dirty panes of glass in a bar door.

Mr. Pickwick, feeling not a little disgusted with this dialogue, as well as with the air and manner of the two beings by whom it had been carried on, was about to inquire whether he could not be accommodated with a private sitting-room, when two or three strangers of genteel appearance entered, at sight of whom the boy threw his cigar into the fire, and whispering to Mr. Price that they had come to ‘make it all right’ for him, joined them at a table in the farther end of the room.

It would appear, however, that matters were not going to be made all right quite so speedily as the young gentleman anticipated; for a very long conversation ensued, of which Mr. Pickwick could not avoid hearing certain angry fragments regarding dissolute conduct, and repeated forgiveness. At last, there were very distinct allusions made by the oldest gentleman of the party to one Whitecross Street, at which the young gentleman, notwithstanding his primeness and his spirit, and his knowledge of life into the bargain, reclined his head upon the table, and howled dismally.

Very much satisfied with this sudden bringing down of the youth’s valour, and this effectual lowering of his tone, Mr. Pickwick rang the bell, and was shown, at his own request, into a private room furnished with a carpet, table, chairs, sideboard and sofa, and ornamented with a looking-glass, and various old prints. Here he had the advantage of hearing Mrs. Namby’s performance on a square piano overhead, while the breakfast was getting ready; when it came, Mr. Perker came too.

‘Aha, my dear sir,’ said the little man, ‘nailed at last, eh? Come, come, I’m not sorry for it either, because now you’ll see the absurdity of this conduct. I’ve noted down the amount of the taxed costs and damages for which the ca-sa was issued, and we had better settle at once and lose no time. Namby is come home by this time, I dare say. What say you, my dear sir? Shall I draw a cheque, or will you?’ The little man rubbed his hands with affected cheerfulness as he said this, but glancing at Mr. Pickwick’s countenance, could not forbear at the same time casting a desponding look towards Sam Weller.

‘Perker,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘let me hear no more of this, I beg. I see no advantage in staying here, so I shall go to prison to-night.’

‘You can’t go to Whitecross Street, my dear Sir,’ said Perker. ‘Impossible! There are sixty beds in a ward; and the bolt’s on, sixteen hours out of the four-and-twenty.’

‘I would rather go to some other place of confinement if I can,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘If not, I must make the best I can of that.’

‘You can go to the Fleet, my dear Sir, if you’re determined to go somewhere,’ said Perker.

‘That’ll do,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘I’ll go there directly I have finished my breakfast.’

‘Stop, stop, my dear Sir; not the least occasion for being in such a violent hurry to get into a place that most other men are as eager to get out of,’ said the good-natured little attorney. ‘We must have a habeas-corpus. There’ll be no judge at chambers till four o’clock this afternoon. You must wait till then.’

‘Very good,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with unmoved patience. ‘Then we will have a chop here, at two. See about it, Sam, and tell them to be punctual.’

Mr. Pickwick remaining firm, despite all the remonstrances and arguments of Perker, the chops appeared and disappeared in due course; he was then put into another hackney coach, and carried off to Chancery Lane, after waiting half an hour or so for Mr. Namby, who had a select dinner-party and could on no account be disturbed before.

There were two judges in attendance at Serjeant’s Inn—one King’s Bench, and one Common Pleas—and a great deal of business appeared to be transacting before them, if the number of lawyer’s clerks who were hurrying in and out with bundles of papers, afforded any test. When they reached the low archway which forms the entrance to the inn, Perker was detained a few moments parlaying with the coachman about the fare and the change; and Mr. Pickwick, stepping to one side to be out of the way of the stream of people that were pouring in and out, looked about him with some curiosity.

The people that attracted his attention most, were three or four men of shabby-genteel appearance, who touched their hats to many of the attorneys who passed, and seemed to have some business there, the nature of which Mr. Pickwick could not divine. They were curious-looking fellows. One was a slim and rather lame man in rusty black, and a white neckerchief; another was a stout, burly person, dressed in the same apparel, with a great reddish-black cloth round his neck; a third was a little weazen, drunken-looking body, with a pimply face. They were loitering about, with their hands behind them, and now and then with an anxious countenance whispered something in the ear of some of the gentlemen with papers, as they hurried by. Mr. Pickwick remembered to have very often observed them lounging under the archway when he had been walking past; and his curiosity was quite excited to know to what branch of the profession these dingy-looking loungers could possibly belong.

He was about to propound the question to Namby, who kept close beside him, sucking a large gold ring on his little finger, when Perker bustled up, and observing that there was no time to lose, led the way into the inn. As Mr. Pickwick followed, the lame man stepped up to him, and civilly touching his hat, held out a written card, which Mr. Pickwick, not wishing to hurt the man’s feelings by refusing, courteously accepted and deposited in his waistcoat pocket.

‘Now,’ said Perker, turning round before he entered one of the offices, to see that his companions were close behind him. ‘In here, my dear sir. Hallo, what do you want?’

This last question was addressed to the lame man, who, unobserved by Mr. Pickwick, made one of the party. In reply to it, the lame man touched his hat again, with all imaginable politeness, and motioned towards Mr. Pickwick.

‘No, no,’ said Perker, with a smile. ‘We don’t want you, my dear friend, we don’t want you.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said the lame man. ‘The gentleman took my card. I hope you will employ me, sir. The gentleman nodded to me. I’ll be judged by the gentleman himself. You nodded to me, sir?’

‘Pooh, pooh, nonsense. You didn’t nod to anybody, Pickwick? A mistake, a mistake,’ said Perker.

‘The gentleman handed me his card,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, producing it from his waistcoat pocket. ‘I accepted it, as the gentleman seemed to wish it—in fact I had some curiosity to look at it when I should be at leisure. I—’

The little attorney burst into a loud laugh, and returning the card to the lame man, informing him it was all a mistake, whispered to Mr. Pickwick as the man turned away in dudgeon, that he was only a bail.

‘A what!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

‘A bail,’ replied Perker.

‘A bail!’

Yes, my dear sir—half a dozen of ‘em here. Bail you to any amount, and only charge half a crown. Curious trade, isn’t it?’ said Perker, regaling himself with a pinch of snuff.

‘What! Am I to understand that these men earn a livelihood by waiting about here, to perjure themselves before the judges of the land, at the rate of half a crown a crime?’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite aghast at the disclosure.

‘Why, I don’t exactly know about perjury, my dear sir,’ replied the little gentleman. ‘Harsh word, my dear sir, very harsh word indeed. It’s a legal fiction, my dear sir, nothing more.’ Saying which, the attorney shrugged his shoulders, smiled, took a second pinch of snuff, and led the way into the office of the judge’s clerk.

This was a room of specially dirty appearance, with a very low ceiling and old panelled walls; and so badly lighted, that although it was broad day outside, great tallow candles were burning on the desks. At one end, was a door leading to the judge’s private apartment, round which were congregated a crowd of attorneys and managing clerks, who were called in, in the order in which their respective appointments stood upon the file. Every time this door was opened to let a party out, the next party made a violent rush to get in; and, as in addition to the numerous dialogues which passed between the gentlemen who were waiting to see the judge, a variety of personal squabbles ensued between the greater part of those who had seen him, there was as much noise as could well be raised in an apartment of such confined dimensions.

Nor were the conversations of these gentlemen the only sounds that broke upon the ear. Standing on a box behind a wooden bar at another end of the room was a clerk in spectacles who was ‘taking the affidavits’; large batches of which were, from time to time, carried into the private room by another clerk for the judge’s signature. There were a large number of attorneys’ clerks to be sworn, and it being a moral impossibility to swear them all at once, the struggles of these gentlemen to reach the clerk in spectacles, were like those of a crowd to get in at the pit door of a theatre when Gracious Majesty honours it with its presence. Another functionary, from time to time, exercised his lungs in calling over the names of those who had been sworn, for the purpose of restoring to them their affidavits after they had been signed by the judge, which gave rise to a few more scuffles; and all these things going on at the same time, occasioned as much bustle as the most active and excitable person could desire to behold. There were yet another class of persons—those who were waiting to attend summonses their employers had taken out, which it was optional to the attorney on the opposite side to attend or not—and whose business it was, from time to time, to cry out the opposite attorney’s name; to make certain that he was not in attendance without their knowledge.

For example. Leaning against the wall, close beside the seat Mr. Pickwick had taken, was an office-lad of fourteen, with a tenor voice; near him a common-law clerk with a bass one.

A clerk hurried in with a bundle of papers, and stared about him.

‘Sniggle and Blink,’ cried the tenor.

‘Porkin and Snob,’ growled the bass.

‘Stumpy and Deacon,’ said the new-comer.

Nobody answered; the next man who came in, was bailed by the whole three; and he in his turn shouted for another firm; and then somebody else roared in a loud voice for another; and so forth.

All this time, the man in the spectacles was hard at work, swearing the clerks; the oath being invariably administered, without any effort at punctuation, and usually in the following terms:—

‘Take the book in your right hand this is your name and hand-writing you swear that the contents of this your affidavit are true so help you God a shilling you must get change I haven’t got it.’

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I suppose they are getting the Habeas-corpus ready?’

‘Yes,’ said Sam, ‘and I vish they’d bring out the have-his-carcase. It’s wery unpleasant keepin’ us vaitin’ here. I’d ha’ got half a dozen have-his-carcases ready, pack’d up and all, by this time.’

What sort of cumbrous and unmanageable machine, Sam Weller imagined a habeas-corpus to be, does not appear; for Perker, at that moment, walked up and took Mr. Pickwick away.

The usual forms having been gone through, the body of Samuel Pickwick was soon afterwards confided to the custody of the tipstaff, to be by him taken to the warden of the Fleet Prison, and there detained until the amount of the damages and costs in the action of Bardell against Pickwick was fully paid and satisfied.

‘And that,’ said Mr. Pickwick, laughing, ‘will be a very long time. Sam, call another hackney-coach. Perker, my dear friend, good-bye.’

‘I shall go with you, and see you safe there,’ said Perker.

‘Indeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘I would rather go without any other attendant than Sam. As soon as I get settled, I will write and let you know, and I shall expect you immediately. Until then, good-bye.’

As Mr. Pickwick said this, he got into the coach which had by this time arrived, followed by the tipstaff. Sam having stationed himself on the box, it rolled away.

‘A most extraordinary man that!’ said Perker, as he stopped to pull on his gloves.

‘What a bankrupt he’d make, Sir,’ observed Mr. Lowten, who was standing near. ‘How he would bother the commissioners! He’d set ‘em at defiance if they talked of committing him, Sir.’

The attorney did not appear very much delighted with his clerk’s professional estimate of Mr. Pickwick’s character, for he walked away without deigning any reply.

The hackney-coach jolted along Fleet Street, as hackney-coaches usually do. The horses ‘went better’, the driver said, when they had anything before them (they must have gone at a most extraordinary pace when there was nothing), and so the vehicle kept behind a cart; when the cart stopped, it stopped; and when the cart went on again, it did the same. Mr. Pickwick sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window.

Time performs wonders. By the powerful old gentleman’s aid, even a hackney-coach gets over half a mile of ground. They stopped at length, and Mr. Pickwick alighted at the gate of the Fleet.

The tipstaff, just looking over his shoulder to see that his charge was following close at his heels, preceded Mr. Pickwick into the prison; turning to the left, after they had entered, they passed through an open door into a lobby, from which a heavy gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and which was guarded by a stout turnkey with the key in his hand, led at once into the interior of the prison.

Here they stopped, while the tipstaff delivered his papers; and here Mr. Pickwick was apprised that he would remain, until he had undergone the ceremony, known to the initiated as ‘sitting for your portrait.’

‘Sitting for my portrait?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Having your likeness taken, sir,’ replied the stout turnkey.

‘We’re capital hands at likenesses here. Take ‘em in no time, and always exact. Walk in, sir, and make yourself at home.’

Mr. Pickwick complied with the invitation, and sat himself down; when Mr. Weller, who stationed himself at the back of the chair, whispered that the sitting was merely another term for undergoing an inspection by the different turnkeys, in order that they might know prisoners from visitors.

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘then I wish the artists would come. This is rather a public place.’

‘They von’t be long, Sir, I des-say,’ replied Sam. ‘There’s a Dutch clock, sir.’

‘So I see,’ observed Mr. Pickwick.

‘And a bird-cage, sir,’ says Sam. ‘Veels vithin veels, a prison in a prison. Ain’t it, Sir?’

As Mr. Weller made this philosophical remark, Mr. Pickwick was aware that his sitting had commenced. The stout turnkey having been relieved from the lock, sat down, and looked at him carelessly, from time to time, while a long thin man who had relieved him, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and planting himself opposite, took a good long view of him. A third rather surly-looking gentleman, who had apparently been disturbed at his tea, for he was disposing of the last remnant of a crust and butter when he came in, stationed himself close to Mr. Pickwick; and, resting his hands on his hips, inspected him narrowly; while two others mixed with the group, and studied his features with most intent and thoughtful faces. Mr. Pickwick winced a good deal under the operation, and appeared to sit very uneasily in his chair; but he made no remark to anybody while it was being performed, not even to Sam, who reclined upon the back of the chair, reflecting, partly on the situation of his master, and partly on the great satisfaction it would have afforded him to make a fierce assault upon all the turnkeys there assembled, one after the other, if it were lawful and peaceable so to do.

At length the likeness was completed, and Mr. Pickwick was informed that he might now proceed into the prison.

‘Where am I to sleep to-night?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, I don’t rightly know about to-night,’ replied the stout turnkey. ‘You’ll be chummed on somebody to-morrow, and then you’ll be all snug and comfortable. The first night’s generally rather unsettled, but you’ll be set all squares to-morrow.’

After some discussion, it was discovered that one of the turnkeys had a bed to let, which Mr. Pickwick could have for that night. He gladly agreed to hire it.

‘If you’ll come with me, I’ll show it you at once,’ said the man. ‘It ain’t a large ‘un; but it’s an out-and-outer to sleep in. This way, sir.’

They passed through the inner gate, and descended a short flight of steps. The key was turned after them; and Mr. Pickwick found himself, for the first time in his life, within the walls of a debtors’ prison.