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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 16)


Mr. Jingle uttered a patronising 'Hear, hear,' which wasresponded to by the remainder of the company; and the glasseshaving been filled, the vice-president assumed an air of wisdomin a state of profound attention; and said--

'Mr. Staple.'

'Sir,' said the little man, rising, 'I wish to address what I haveto say to you and not to our worthy chairman, because ourworthy chairman is in some measure--I may say in a great degree--the subject of what I have to say, or I may say to--to--''State,' suggested Mr. Jingle.

'Yes, to state,' said the little man, 'I thank my honourablefriend, if he will allow me to call him so (four hears and onecertainly from Mr. Jingle), for the suggestion. Sir, I am a Deller--a Dingley Deller (cheers). I cannot lay claim to the honour offorming an item in the population of Muggleton; nor, Sir, I willfrankly admit, do I covet that honour: and I will tell you why, Sir(hear); to Muggleton I will readily concede all these honours anddistinctions to which it can fairly lay claim--they are too numerousand too well known to require aid or recapitulation from me.But, sir, while we remember that Muggleton has given birth to aDumkins and a Podder, let us never forget that Dingley Dell canboast a Luffey and a Struggles. (Vociferous cheering.) Let me notbe considered as wishing to detract from the merits of the formergentlemen. Sir, I envy them the luxury of their own feelings onthis occasion. (Cheers.) Every gentleman who hears me, isprobably acquainted with the reply made by an individual, who--to use an ordinary figure of speech--"hung out" in a tub, tothe emperor Alexander:--"if I were not Diogenes," said he, "Iwould be Alexander." I can well imagine these gentlemen to say,"If I were not Dumkins I would be Luffey; if I were not PodderI would be Struggles." (Enthusiasm.) But, gentlemen of Muggleton,is it in cricket alone that your fellow-townsmen stand pre-eminent?Have you never heard of Dumkins and determination?Have you never been taught to associate Podder with property?(Great applause.) Have you never, when struggling for yourrights, your liberties, and your privileges, been reduced, if onlyfor an instant, to misgiving and despair? And when you havebeen thus depressed, has not the name of Dumkins laid afreshwithin your breast the fire which had just gone out; and has not aword from that man lighted it again as brightly as if it had neverexpired? (Great cheering.) Gentlemen, I beg to surround with arich halo of enthusiastic cheering the united names of "Dumkinsand Podder."'

Here the little man ceased, and here the company commenceda raising of voices, and thumping of tables, which lasted withlittle intermission during the remainder of the evening. Othertoasts were drunk. Mr. Luffey and Mr. Struggles, Mr. Pickwickand Mr. Jingle, were, each in his turn, the subject of unqualifiedeulogium; and each in due course returned thanks for the honour.

Enthusiastic as we are in the noble cause to which we havedevoted ourselves, we should have felt a sensation of pride whichwe cannot express, and a consciousness of having done somethingto merit immortality of which we are now deprived, could wehave laid the faintest outline on these addresses before our ardentreaders. Mr. Snodgrass, as usual, took a great mass of notes,which would no doubt have afforded most useful and valuableinformation, had not the burning eloquence of the words or thefeverish influence of the wine made that gentleman's hand soextremely unsteady, as to render his writing nearly unintelligible,and his style wholly so. By dint of patient investigation, we havebeen enabled to trace some characters bearing a faint resemblanceto the names of the speakers; and we can only discern an entry ofa song (supposed to have been sung by Mr. Jingle), in which thewords 'bowl' 'sparkling' 'ruby' 'bright' and 'wine' are frequentlyrepeated at short intervals. We fancy, too, that we can discern atthe very end of the notes, some indistinct reference to 'broiledbones'; and then the words 'cold' 'without' occur: but as anyhypothesis we could found upon them must necessarily rest uponmere conjecture, we are not disposed to indulge in any of thespeculations to which they may give rise.

We will therefore return to Mr. Tupman; merely adding thatwithin some few minutes before twelve o'clock that night, theconvocation of worthies of Dingley Dell and Muggleton wereheard to sing, with great feeling and emphasis, the beautiful andpathetic national air of'We won't go home till morning,We won't go home till morning,We won't go home till morning,Till daylight doth appear.'

CHAPTER VIIISTRONGLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE POSITION, THAT THECOURSE OF TRUE LOVE IS NOT A RAILWAY

The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so manyof the gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evincedin his behalf, were all favourable to the growth and developmentof those softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in thebosom of Mr. Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined tocentre in one lovely object. The young ladies were pretty,their manners winning, their dispositions unexceptionable; butthere was a dignity in the air, a touch-me-not-ishness in thewalk, a majesty in the eye, of the spinster aunt, to which, at theirtime of life, they could lay no claim, which distinguished herfrom any female on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed. That therewas something kindred in their nature, something congenial intheir souls, something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms,was evident. Her name was the first that rose to Mr. Tupman'slips as he lay wounded on the grass; and her hysteric laughterwas the first sound that fell upon his ear when he was supportedto the house. But had her agitation arisen from an amiable andfeminine sensibility which would have been equally irrepressiblein any case; or had it been called forth by a more ardent andpassionate feeling, which he, of all men living, could aloneawaken? These were the doubts which racked his brain as he layextended on the sofa; these were the doubts which he determinedshould be at once and for ever resolved.

it was evening. Isabella and Emily had strolled out withMr. Trundle; the deaf old lady had fallen asleep in her chair; thesnoring of the fat boy, penetrated in a low and monotonoussound from the distant kitchen; the buxom servants werelounging at the side door, enjoying the pleasantness of the hour,and the delights of a flirtation, on first principles, with certainunwieldy animals attached to the farm; and there sat the interestingpair, uncared for by all, caring for none, and dreaming onlyof themselves; there they sat, in short, like a pair of carefully-folded kid gloves--bound up in each other.

'I have forgotten my flowers,' said the spinster aunt.

'Water them now,' said Mr. Tupman, in accents of persuasion.

'You will take cold in the evening air,' urged the spinster auntaffectionately.

'No, no,' said Mr. Tupman, rising; 'it will do me good. Let meaccompany you.'

The lady paused to adjust the sling in which the left arm of theyouth was placed, and taking his right arm led him to the garden.

There was a bower at the farther end, with honeysuckle,jessamine, and creeping plants--one of those sweet retreatswhich humane men erect for the accommodation of spiders.

The spinster aunt took up a large watering-pot which lay inone corner, and was about to leave the arbour. Mr. Tupmandetained her, and drew her to a seat beside him.

'Miss Wardle!' said he.The spinster aunt trembled, till some pebbles which hadaccidentally found their way into the large watering-pot shooklike an infant's rattle.

'Miss Wardle,' said Mr. Tupman, 'you are an angel.'

'Mr. Tupman!' exclaimed Rachael, blushing as red as thewatering-pot itself.

'Nay,' said the eloquent Pickwickian--'I know it but too well.'

'All women are angels, they say,' murmured the lady playfully.

'Then what can you be; or to what, without presumption, canI compare you?' replied Mr. Tupman. 'Where was the womanever seen who resembled you? Where else could I hope to find sorare a combination of excellence and beauty? Where else couldI seek to-- Oh!' Here Mr. Tupman paused, and pressed thehand which clasped the handle of the happy watering-pot.

The lady turned aside her head. 'Men are such deceivers,' shesoftly whispered.

'They are, they are,' ejaculated Mr. Tupman; 'but not all men.There lives at least one being who can never change--one beingwho would be content to devote his whole existence to yourhappiness--who lives but in your eyes--who breathes but in yoursmiles--who bears the heavy burden of life itself only for you.'

'Could such an individual be found--' said the lady.

'But he CAN be found,' said the ardent Mr. Tupman, interposing.'He IS found. He is here, Miss Wardle.' And ere the ladywas aware of his intention, Mr. Tupman had sunk upon his kneesat her feet.

'Mr. Tupman, rise,' said Rachael.

'Never!' was the valorous reply. 'Oh, Rachael!' He seized herpassive hand, and the watering-pot fell to the ground as hepressed it to his lips.--'Oh, Rachael! say you love me.'

'Mr. Tupman,' said the spinster aunt, with averted head, 'Ican hardly speak the words; but--but--you are not whollyindifferent to me.'

Mr. Tupman no sooner heard this avowal, than he proceededto do what his enthusiastic emotions prompted, and what, foraught we know (for we are but little acquainted with suchmatters), people so circumstanced always do. He jumped up, and,throwing his arm round the neck of the spinster aunt, imprintedupon her lips numerous kisses, which after a due show ofstruggling and resistance, she received so passively, that there isno telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed, ifthe lady had not given a very unaffected start, and exclaimed inan affrighted tone--

'Mr. Tupman, we are observed!--we are discovered!'

Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectlymotionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, butwithout the slightest expression on his face that the most expertphysiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, orany other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr.Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; andthe longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fatboy's countenance, the more convinced he became that he eitherdid not know, or did not understand, anything that had beengoing forward. Under this impression, he said with great firmness--

'What do you want here, Sir?'

'Supper's ready, sir,' was the prompt reply.

'Have you just come here, sir?' inquired Mr. Tupman, with apiercing look.

'Just,' replied the fat boy.

Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was nota wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.

Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walkedtowards the house; the fat boy followed behind.

'He knows nothing of what has happened,'he whispered.

'Nothing,' said the spinster aunt.

There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressedchuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could nothave been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anythingbut feeding in his whole visage.

'He must have been fast asleep,' whispered Mr. Tupman.

'I have not the least doubt of it,' replied the spinster aunt.

They both laughed heartily.

Mr, Tupman was wrong. The fat boy, for once, had not beenfast asleep. He was awake--wide awake--to what had been going forward.

The supper passed off without any attempt at a generalconversation. The old lady had gone to bed; Isabella Wardledevoted herself exclusively to Mr. Trundle; the spinster's attentionswere reserved for Mr. Tupman; and Emily's thoughtsappeared to be engrossed by some distant object--possibly theywere with the absent Snodgrass.

Eleven--twelve--one o'clock had struck, and the gentlemenhad not arrived. Consternation sat on every face. Could theyhave been waylaid and robbed? Should they send men andlanterns in every direction by which they could be supposedlikely to have travelled home? or should they-- Hark! therethey were. What could have made them so late? A strange voice,too! To whom could it belong? They rushed into the kitchen,whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rathermore than a glimmering of the real state of the case.

Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hatcocked completely over his left eye, was leaning against thedresser, shaking his head from side to side, and producing aconstant succession of the blandest and most benevolent smileswithout being moved thereunto by any discernible cause orpretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamedcountenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentlemanmuttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle,supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invokingdestruction upon the head of any member of the family whoshould suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; andMr. Snodgrass had sunk into a chair, with an expression of themost abject and hopeless misery that the human mind canimagine, portrayed in every lineament of his expressive face.

'is anything the matter?' inquired the three ladies.

'Nothing the matter,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'We--we're--allright.--I say, Wardle, we're all right, ain't we?'

'I should think so,' replied the jolly host.--'My dears, here's myfriend Mr. Jingle--Mr. Pickwick's friend, Mr. Jingle, come 'pon--little visit.'

'Is anything the matter with Mr. Snodgrass, Sir?' inquiredEmily, with great anxiety.

'Nothing the matter, ma'am,' replied the stranger. 'Cricketdinner--glorious party--capital songs--old port--claret--good--very good--wine, ma'am--wine.'

'It wasn't the wine,' murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a brokenvoice. 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is thewine, in these cases.)

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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