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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 2)


'Mr. Pickwick observed (says the secretary) that fame was dearto the heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart ofhis friend Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear tohis friend Tupman; and the desire of earning fame in the sportsof the field, the air, and the water was uppermost in the breast ofhis friend Winkle. He (Mr. Pickwick) would not deny that he wasinfluenced by human passions and human feelings (cheers)--possibly by human weaknesses (loud cries of "No"); but this hewould say, that if ever the fire of self-importance broke out in hisbosom, the desire to benefit the human race in preferenceeffectually quenched it. The praise of mankind was his swing;philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement cheering.) Hehad felt some pride--he acknowledged it freely, and let hisenemies make the most of it--he had felt some pride when hepresented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might becelebrated or it might not. (A cry of "It is," and great cheering.)He would take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickianwhose voice he had just heard--it was celebrated; but if the fameof that treatise were to extend to the farthest confines of theknown world, the pride with which he should reflect on theauthorship of that production would be as nothing comparedwith the pride with which he looked around him, on this, theproudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was a humbleindividual. ("No, no.") Still he could not but feel that they hadselected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger.Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmenwere unsettled. Let them look abroad and contemplate the sceneswhich were enacting around them. Stage-coaches were upsettingin all directions, horses were bolting, boats were overturning, andboilers were bursting. (Cheers--a voice "No.") No! (Cheers.)Let that honourable Pickwickian who cried "No" so loudlycome forward and deny it, if he could. (Cheers.) Who was it thatcried "No"? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it some vain anddisappointed man--he would not say haberdasher (loud cheers)--who, jealous of the praise which had been--perhaps undeservedly--bestowed on his (Mr. Pickwick's) researches, and smarting underthe censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts atrivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of---

'Mr. BLOTTON (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourablePickwickian allude to him? (Cries of "Order," "Chair," "Yes,""No," "Go on," "Leave off," etc.)

'Mr. PICKWICK would not put up to be put down by clamour.He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)

'Mr. BLOTTON would only say then, that he repelled the hon.gent.'s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt.(Great cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion,and loud cries of "Chair," and "Order.")

'Mr. A. SNODGRASS rose to order. He threw himself upon thechair. (Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgracefulcontest between two members of that club should be allowed tocontinue. (Hear, hear.)

'The CHAIRMAN was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian wouldwithdraw the expression he had just made use of.

'Mr. BLOTTON, with all possible respect for the chair, was quitesure he would not.

'The CHAIRMAN felt it his imperative duty to demand of thehonourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression whichhad just escaped him in a common sense.

'Mr. BLOTTON had no hesitation in saying that he had not--hehad used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He wasbound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained thehighest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he hadmerely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view.(Hear, hear.)

'Mr. PICKWICK felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and fullexplanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at onceunderstood, that his own observations had been merely intendedto bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)'

Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate didalso, after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligiblepoint. We have no official statement of the facts which the readerwill find recorded in the next chapter, but they have been carefullycollated from letters and other MS. authorities, so unquestionablygenuine as to justify their narration in a connected form.

CHAPTER IITHE FIRST DAY'S JOURNEY, AND THE FIRST EVENING'SADVENTURES; WITH THEIR CONSEQUENCES

That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, andbegun to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May,one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr. SamuelPickwick burst like another sun from his slumbers, threw open hischamber window, and looked out upon the world beneath. GoswellStreet was at his feet, Goswell Street was on his right hand--asfar as the eye could reach, Goswell Street extended on his left;and the opposite side of Goswell Street was over the way. 'Such,'thought Mr. Pickwick, 'are the narrow views of those philosopherswho, content with examining the things that lie before them, looknot to the truths which are hidden beyond. As well might I becontent to gaze on Goswell Street for ever, without one effort topenetrate to the hidden countries which on every side surroundit.' And having given vent to this beautiful reflection, Mr.Pickwick proceeded to put himself into his clothes, and hisclothes into his portmanteau. Great men are seldom overscrupulous in the arrangement of their attire; the operation ofshaving, dressing, and coffee-imbibing was soon performed; and, inanother hour, Mr. Pickwick, with his portmanteau in his hand, histelescope in his greatcoat pocket, and his note-book in hiswaistcoat, ready for the reception of any discoveries worthy ofbeing noted down, had arrived at the coach-stand inSt. Martin's-le-Grand.'Cab!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Here you are, sir,' shouted a strange specimen of the humanrace, in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same, who, with a brasslabel and number round his neck, looked as if he were cataloguedin some collection of rarities. This was the waterman. 'Here youare, sir. Now, then, fust cab!' And the first cab having beenfetched from the public-house, where he had been smoking hisfirst pipe, Mr. Pickwick and his portmanteau were thrown intothe vehicle.

'Golden Cross,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Only a bob's vorth, Tommy,' cried the driver sulkily, for theinformation of his friend the waterman, as the cab drove off.

'How old is that horse, my friend?' inquired Mr. Pickwick,rubbing his nose with the shilling he had reserved for the fare.

'Forty-two,' replied the driver, eyeing him askant.

'What!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, laying his hand upon hisnote-book. The driver reiterated his former statement. Mr.Pickwick looked very hard at the man's face, but his featureswere immovable, so he noted down the fact forthwith.'And how long do you keep him out at a time?'inquired Mr.Pickwick, searching for further information.

'Two or three veeks,' replied the man.

'Weeks!' said Mr. Pickwick in astonishment, and out came thenote-book again.

'He lives at Pentonwil when he's at home,' observed the drivercoolly, 'but we seldom takes him home, on account of his weakness.'

'On account of his weakness!' reiterated the perplexed Mr. Pickwick.

'He always falls down when he's took out o' the cab,' continuedthe driver, 'but when he's in it, we bears him up werrytight, and takes him in werry short, so as he can't werry well falldown; and we've got a pair o' precious large wheels on, so ven hedoes move, they run after him, and he must go on--he can'thelp it.'

Mr. Pickwick entered every word of this statement in his note-book, with the view of communicating it to the club, as a singularinstance of the tenacity of life in horses under trying circumstances.The entry was scarcely completed when they reached theGolden Cross. Down jumped the driver, and out got Mr. Pickwick.Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Winkle, who hadbeen anxiously waiting the arrival of their illustrious leader,crowded to welcome him.

'Here's your fare,' said Mr. Pickwick, holding out the shillingto the driver.

What was the learned man's astonishment, when that unaccountableperson flung the money on the pavement, andrequested in figurative terms to be allowed the pleasure of fightinghim (Mr. Pickwick) for the amount!

'You are mad,' said Mr. Snodgrass.

'Or drunk,' said Mr. Winkle.

'Or both,' said Mr. Tupman.

'Come on!' said the cab-driver, sparring away like clockwork.'Come on--all four on you.'

'Here's a lark!' shouted half a dozen hackney coachmen. 'Goto vork, Sam!--and they crowded with great glee round theparty.

'What's the row, Sam?' inquired one gentleman in black calico sleeves.

'Row!' replied the cabman, 'what did he want my number for?''I didn't want your number,' said the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

'What did you take it for, then?' inquired the cabman.

'I didn't take it,' said Mr. Pickwick indignantly.

'Would anybody believe,' continued the cab-driver, appealingto the crowd, 'would anybody believe as an informer'ud go aboutin a man's cab, not only takin' down his number, but ev'ry wordhe says into the bargain' (a light flashed upon Mr. Pickwick--itwas the note-book).

'Did he though?' inquired another cabman.

'Yes, did he,' replied the first; 'and then arter aggerawatin' meto assault him, gets three witnesses here to prove it. But I'll give ithim, if I've six months for it. Come on!' and the cabman dashedhis hat upon the ground, with a reckless disregard of his ownprivate property, and knocked Mr. Pickwick's spectacles off, andfollowed up the attack with a blow on Mr. Pickwick's nose, andanother on Mr. Pickwick's chest, and a third in Mr. Snodgrass'seye, and a fourth, by way of variety, in Mr. Tupman's waistcoat,and then danced into the road, and then back again to the pavement,and finally dashed the whole temporary supply of breathout of Mr. Winkle's body; and all in half a dozen seconds.

'Where's an officer?' said Mr. Snodgrass.

'Put 'em under the pump,' suggested a hot-pieman.

'You shall smart for this,' gasped Mr. Pickwick.

'Informers!' shouted the crowd.

'Come on,' cried the cabman, who had been sparring withoutcessation the whole time.

The mob hitherto had been passive spectators of the scene, butas the intelligence of the Pickwickians being informers was spreadamong them, they began to canvass with considerable vivacitythe propriety of enforcing the heated pastry-vendor's proposition:and there is no saying what acts of personal aggression theymight have committed, had not the affray been unexpectedlyterminated by the interposition of a new-comer.

'What's the fun?' said a rather tall, thin, young man, in a greencoat, emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.

'informers!' shouted the crowd again.

'We are not,' roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to anydispassionate listener, carried conviction with it.'Ain't you, though--ain't you?' said the young man, appealingto Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by theinfallible process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.

That learned man in a few hurried words explained the realstate of the case.

'Come along, then,' said he of the green coat, lugging Mr.Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way.Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off--respectablegentleman--know him well--none of your nonsense--this way,sir--where's your friends?--all a mistake, I see--never mind--accidents will happen--best regulated families--never say die--down upon your luck--Pull him UP--Put that in his pipe--likethe flavour--damned rascals.' And with a lengthened string ofsimilar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility,the stranger led the way to the traveller's waiting-room, whitherhe was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.

'Here, waiter!' shouted the stranger, ringing the bell withtremendous violence, 'glasses round--brandy-and-water, hot andstrong, and sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, Sir? Waiter! rawbeef-steak for the gentleman's eye--nothing like raw beef-steakfor a bruise, sir; cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-postinconvenient--damned odd standing in the open street half anhour, with your eye against a lamp-post--eh,--very good--ha! ha!' And the stranger, without stopping to take breath,swallowed at a draught full half a pint of the reeking brandy-and-water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as ifnothing uncommon had occurred.

While his three companions were busily engaged in profferingtheir thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisureto examine his costume and appearance.

He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body,and the length of his legs, gave him the appearance of beingmuch taller. The green coat had been a smart dress garment in thedays of swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorneda much shorter man than the stranger, for the soiled and fadedsleeves scarcely reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely upto his chin, at the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and anold stock, without a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck.His scanty black trousers displayed here and there those shinypatches which bespeak long service, and were strapped verytightly over a pair of patched and mended shoes, as if to concealthe dirty white stockings, which were nevertheless distinctlyvisible. His long, black hair escaped in negligent waves frombeneath each side of his old pinched-up hat; and glimpses of hisbare wrists might be observed between the tops of his gloves andthe cuffs of his coat sleeves. His face was thin and haggard; butan indescribable air of jaunty impudence and perfect self-possession pervaded the whole man.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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