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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 21)


Mr. Wardle shrugged his shoulders, and was silent.

'We want to know,' said the little man solemnly; 'and we askthe question of you, in order that we may not awaken apprehensionsinside--we want to know who you've got in this house at present?'

'Who there is in the house!' said Sam, in whose mind theinmates were always represented by that particular article of theircostume, which came under his immediate superintendence.'There's a vooden leg in number six; there's a pair of Hessians inthirteen; there's two pair of halves in the commercial; there'sthese here painted tops in the snuggery inside the bar; and fivemore tops in the coffee-room.'

'Nothing more?' said the little man.

'Stop a bit,' replied Sam, suddenly recollecting himself. 'Yes;there's a pair of Vellingtons a good deal worn, and a pair o'lady's shoes, in number five.'

'What sort of shoes?' hastily inquired Wardle, who, togetherwith Mr. Pickwick, had been lost in bewilderment at the singularcatalogue of visitors.

'Country make,' replied Sam.

'Any maker's name?'

'Brown.'

'Where of?'

'Muggleton.

'It is them,' exclaimed Wardle. 'By heavens, we've found them.'

'Hush!' said Sam. 'The Vellingtons has gone to Doctors' Commons.'

'No,' said the little man.

'Yes, for a licence.'

'We're in time,' exclaimed Wardle. 'Show us the room; not amoment is to be lost.'

'Pray, my dear sir--pray,' said the little man; 'caution,caution.' He drew from his pocket a red silk purse, and lookedvery hard at Sam as he drew out a sovereign.

Sam grinned expressively.

'Show us into the room at once, without announcing us,' saidthe little man, 'and it's yours.'

Sam threw the painted tops into a corner, and led the waythrough a dark passage, and up a wide staircase. He paused atthe end of a second passage, and held out his hand.

'Here it is,' whispered the attorney, as he deposited the moneyon the hand of their guide.

The man stepped forward for a few paces, followed by the twofriends and their legal adviser. He stopped at a door.

'Is this the room?' murmured the little gentleman.

Sam nodded assent.

Old Wardle opened the door; and the whole three walked intothe room just as Mr. Jingle, who had that moment returned, hadproduced the licence to the spinster aunt.

The spinster uttered a loud shriek, and throwing herself into achair, covered her face with her hands. Mr. Jingle crumpled upthe licence, and thrust it into his coat pocket. The unwelcomevisitors advanced into the middle of the room.'You--you are a nice rascal, arn't you?' exclaimed Wardle,breathless with passion.

'My dear Sir, my dear sir,' said the little man, laying his hat onthe table, 'pray, consider--pray. Defamation of character: actionfor damages. Calm yourself, my dear sir, pray--'

'How dare you drag my sister from my house?' said the old man.

Ay--ay--very good,' said the little gentleman, 'you may askthat. How dare you, sir?--eh, sir?'

'Who the devil are you?' inquired Mr. Jingle, in so fierce atone, that the little gentleman involuntarily fell back a step or two.

'Who is he, you scoundrel,' interposed Wardle. 'He's mylawyer, Mr. Perker, of Gray's Inn. Perker, I'll have this fellowprosecuted--indicted--I'll--I'll--I'll ruin him. And you,' continuedMr. Wardle, turning abruptly round to his sister--'you,Rachael, at a time of life when you ought to know better, whatdo you mean by running away with a vagabond, disgracing yourfamily, and making yourself miserable? Get on your bonnet andcome back. Call a hackney-coach there, directly, and bring thislady's bill, d'ye hear--d'ye hear?''Cert'nly, Sir,' replied Sam, who had answered Wardle'sviolent ringing of the bell with a degree of celerity which musthave appeared marvellous to anybody who didn't know that hiseye had been applied to the outside of the keyhole during thewhole interview.

'Get on your bonnet,' repeated Wardle.

'Do nothing of the kind,' said Jingle. 'Leave the room, Sir--no business here--lady's free to act as she pleases--more thanone-and-twenty.'

'More than one-and-twenty!' ejaculated Wardle contemptuously.'More than one-and-forty!'

'I ain't,' said the spinster aunt, her indignation getting thebetter of her determination to faint.

'You are,' replied Wardle; 'you're fifty if you're an hour.'

Here the spinster aunt uttered a loud shriek, and became senseless.

'A glass of water,' said the humane Mr. Pickwick, summoningthe landlady.

'A glass of water!' said the passionate Wardle. 'Bring abucket, and throw it all over her; it'll do her good, and sherichly deserves it.'

'Ugh, you brute!' ejaculated the kind-hearted landlady. 'Poordear.' And with sundry ejaculations of 'Come now, there's a dear--drink a little of this--it'll do you good--don't give way so--there's a love,' etc. etc., the landlady, assisted by a chambermaid,proceeded to vinegar the forehead, beat the hands, titillate thenose, and unlace the stays of the spinster aunt, and to administersuch other restoratives as are usually applied by compassionatefemales to ladies who are endeavouring to ferment themselvesinto hysterics.

'Coach is ready, Sir,' said Sam, appearing at the door.

'Come along,' cried Wardle. 'I'll carry her downstairs.'

At this proposition, the hysterics came on with redoubled violence.The landlady was about to enter a very violent protest againstthis proceeding, and had already given vent to an indignantinquiry whether Mr. Wardle considered himself a lord of thecreation, when Mr. Jingle interposed--

'Boots,' said he, 'get me an officer.'

'Stay, stay,' said little Mr. Perker. 'Consider, Sir, consider.'

'I'll not consider,' replied Jingle. 'She's her own mistress--seewho dares to take her away--unless she wishes it.'

'I WON'T be taken away,' murmured the spinster aunt. 'I DON'Twish it.' (Here there was a frightful relapse.)

'My dear Sir,' said the little man, in a low tone, taking Mr.Wardle and Mr. Pickwick apart--'my dear Sir, we're in a veryawkward situation. It's a distressing case--very; I never knewone more so; but really, my dear sir, really we have no power tocontrol this lady's actions. I warned you before we came, my dearsir, that there was nothing to look to but a compromise.'

There was a short pause.

'What kind of compromise would you recommend?' inquiredMr. Pickwick.

'Why, my dear Sir, our friend's in an unpleasant position--verymuch so. We must be content to suffer some pecuniary loss.'

'I'll suffer any, rather than submit to this disgrace, and let her,fool as she is, be made miserable for life,' said Wardle.

'I rather think it can be done,' said the bustling little man.'Mr. Jingle, will you step with us into the next room for amoment?'

Mr. Jingle assented, and the quartette walked into an empty apartment.

'Now, sir,' said the little man, as he carefully closed the door,'is there no way of accommodating this matter--step this way,sir, for a moment--into this window, Sir, where we can be alone--there, sir, there, pray sit down, sir. Now, my dear Sir, betweenyou and I, we know very well, my dear Sir, that you have run offwith this lady for the sake of her money. Don't frown, Sir, don'tfrown; I say, between you and I, WE know it. We are both men ofthe world, and WE know very well that our friends here, are not--eh?'

Mr. Jingle's face gradually relaxed; and something distantlyresembling a wink quivered for an instant in his left eye.

'Very good, very good,' said the little man, observing theimpression he had made. 'Now, the fact is, that beyond a fewhundreds, the lady has little or nothing till the death of hermother--fine old lady, my dear Sir.'

'OLD,' said Mr. Jingle briefly but emphatically.

'Why, yes,' said the attorney, with a slight cough. 'You areright, my dear Sir, she is rather old. She comes of an old familythough, my dear Sir; old in every sense of the word. The founderof that family came into Kent when Julius Caesar invadedBritain;--only one member of it, since, who hasn't lived to eighty-five,and he was beheaded by one of the Henrys. The old ladyis not seventy-three now, my dear Sir.' The little man paused, andtook a pinch of snuff.

'Well,' cried Mr. Jingle.

'Well, my dear sir--you don't take snuff!--ah! so much thebetter--expensive habit--well, my dear Sir, you're a fine youngman, man of the world--able to push your fortune, if you hadcapital, eh?'

'Well,' said Mr. Jingle again.

'Do you comprehend me?'

'Not quite.'

'Don't you think--now, my dear Sir, I put it to you don't youthink--that fifty pounds and liberty would be better than MissWardle and expectation?'

'Won't do--not half enough!' said Mr. Jingle, rising.

'Nay, nay, my dear Sir,' remonstrated the little attorney,seizing him by the button. 'Good round sum--a man like youcould treble it in no time--great deal to be done with fifty pounds,my dear Sir.'

'More to be done with a hundred and fifty,' replied Mr. Jingle coolly.

'Well, my dear Sir, we won't waste time in splitting straws,'resumed the little man, 'say--say--seventy.''Won't do,' said Mr. Jingle.

'Don't go away, my dear sir--pray don't hurry,' said the littleman. 'Eighty; come: I'll write you a cheque at once.'

'Won't do,' said Mr. Jingle.

'Well, my dear Sir, well,' said the little man, still detaining him;'just tell me what WILL do.'

'Expensive affair,' said Mr. Jingle. 'Money out of pocket--posting, nine pounds; licence, three--that's twelve--compensation,a hundred--hundred and twelve--breach of honour--andloss of the lady--'

'Yes, my dear Sir, yes,' said the little man, with a knowing look,'never mind the last two items. That's a hundred and twelve--saya hundred--come.'

'And twenty,' said Mr. Jingle.

'Come, come, I'll write you a cheque,' said the little man; anddown he sat at the table for that purpose.

'I'll make it payable the day after to-morrow,' said the littleman, with a look towards Mr. Wardle; 'and we can get the ladyaway, meanwhile.' Mr. Wardle sullenly nodded assent.

'A hundred,' said the little man.

'And twenty,' said Mr. Jingle.

'My dear Sir,' remonstrated the little man.

'Give it him,' interposed Mr. Wardle, 'and let him go.'

The cheque was written by the little gentleman, and pocketedby Mr. Jingle.

'Now, leave this house instantly!' said Wardle, starting up.

'My dear Sir,' urged the little man.

'And mind,' said Mr. Wardle, 'that nothing should haveinduced me to make this compromise--not even a regard for myfamily--if I had not known that the moment you got any moneyin that pocket of yours, you'd go to the devil faster, if possible,than you would without it--'

'My dear sir,' urged the little man again.

'Be quiet, Perker,' resumed Wardle. 'Leave the room, Sir.'

'Off directly,' said the unabashed Jingle. 'Bye bye, Pickwick.'If any dispassionate spectator could have beheld the countenanceof the illustrious man, whose name forms the leadingfeature of the title of this work, during the latter part of thisconversation, he would have been almost induced to wonder thatthe indignant fire which flashed from his eyes did not melt theglasses of his spectacles--so majestic was his wrath. His nostrilsdilated, and his fists clenched involuntarily, as he heard himselfaddressed by the villain. But he restrained himself again--he didnot pulverise him.

'Here,' continued the hardened traitor, tossing the licence atMr. Pickwick's feet; 'get the name altered--take home the lady--do for Tuppy.'

Mr. Pickwick was a philosopher, but philosophers are onlymen in armour, after all. The shaft had reached him, penetratedthrough his philosophical harness, to his very heart. In the frenzyof his rage, he hurled the inkstand madly forward, and followedit up himself. But Mr. Jingle had disappeared, and he foundhimself caught in the arms of Sam.

'Hollo,' said that eccentric functionary, 'furniter's cheapwhere you come from, Sir. Self-acting ink, that 'ere; it's wroteyour mark upon the wall, old gen'l'm'n. Hold still, Sir; wot's theuse o' runnin' arter a man as has made his lucky, and got tot'other end of the Borough by this time?'

Mr. Pickwick's mind, like those of all truly great men, was opento conviction. He was a quick and powerful reasoner; anda moment's reflection sufficed to remind him of the impotencyof his rage. It subsided as quickly as it had been roused.He panted for breath, and looked benignantly round upon hisfriends.

Shall we tell the lamentations that ensued when Miss Wardlefound herself deserted by the faithless Jingle? Shall we extractMr. Pickwick's masterly description of that heartrending scene?His note-book, blotted with the tears of sympathising humanity,lies open before us; one word, and it is in the printer's hands.But, no! we will be resolute! We will not wring the publicbosom, with the delineation of such suffering!

Slowly and sadly did the two friends and the deserted ladyreturn next day in the Muggleton heavy coach. Dimly anddarkly had the sombre shadows of a summer's night fallen uponall around, when they again reached Dingley Dell, and stoodwithin the entrance to Manor Farm.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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