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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 25)


'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the veryborder of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species ofmatrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger; 'La, Mr. Pickwick,what a question!'

'Well, but do you?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'That depends,' said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster verynear to Mr. Pickwick's elbow which was planted on the table.'that depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr.Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir.'

'That's very true,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'but the person I have inmy eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I thinkpossesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerableknowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs.Bardell, which may be of material use to me.'

'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to hercap-border again.

'I do,' said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wontin speaking of a subject which interested him--'I do, indeed; andto tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.'

'Dear me, sir,'exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

'You'll think it very strange now,' said the amiable Mr.Pickwick, with a good-humoured glance at his companion, 'thatI never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentionedit, till I sent your little boy out this morning--eh?'

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshippedMr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once,raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravaganthopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going topropose--a deliberate plan, too--sent her little boy to theBorough, to get him out of the way--how thoughtful--how considerate!

'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what do you think?'

'Oh, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation,'you're very kind, sir.'

'It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?' said Mr. Pickwick.'Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,' repliedMrs. Bardell; 'and, of course, I should take more trouble toplease you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick,to have so much consideration for my loneliness.'

'Ah, to be sure,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I never thought of that.When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you.To be sure, so you will.'

'I am sure I ought to be a very happy woman,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'And your little boy--' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Bless his heart!' interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

'He, too, will have a companion,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'alively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a weekthan he would ever learn in a year.' And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

'Oh, you dear--' said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

'Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,' said Mrs. Bardell; andwithout more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her armsround Mr. Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears and a chorusof sobs.

'Bless my soul,' cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick; 'Mrs.Bardell, my good woman--dear me, what a situation--prayconsider.--Mrs. Bardell, don't--if anybody should come--'

'Oh, let them come,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically; 'I'llnever leave you --dear, kind, good soul;' and, with these words,Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

'Mercy upon me,' said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, 'Ihear somebody coming up the stairs. Don't, don't, there's a goodcreature, don't.' But entreaty and remonstrance were alikeunavailing; for Mrs. Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick's arms;and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, MasterBardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle,and Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless. He stoodwith his lovely burden in his arms, gazing vacantly on thecountenances of his friends, without the slightest attempt atrecognition or explanation. They, in their turn, stared at him;and Master Bardell, in his turn, stared at everybody.

The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, andthe perplexity of Mr. Pickwick was so extreme, that they mighthave remained in exactly the same relative situations until thesuspended animation of the lady was restored, had it not been fora most beautiful and touching expression of filial affection on thepart of her youthful son. Clad in a tight suit of corduroy,spangled with brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at firststood at the door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, theimpression that his mother must have suffered some personaldamage pervaded his partially developed mind, and consideringMr. Pickwick as the aggressor, he set up an appalling and semi-earthly kind of howling, and butting forward with his head,commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the backand legs, with such blows and pinches as the strength of his arm,and the violence of his excitement, allowed.

'Take this little villain away,' said the agonised Mr. Pickwick,'he's mad.'

'What is the matter?' said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick pettishly. 'Take away theboy.' (Here Mr. Winkle carried the interesting boy, screamingand struggling, to the farther end of the apartment.) 'Now helpme, lead this woman downstairs.'

'Oh, I am better now,' said Mrs. Bardell faintly.

'Let me lead you downstairs,' said the ever-gallant Mr. Tupman.

'Thank you, sir--thank you;' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically.And downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied byher affectionate son.

'I cannot conceive,' said Mr. Pickwick when his friendreturned--'I cannot conceive what has been the matter with thatwoman. I had merely announced to her my intention of keepinga man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm inwhich you found her. Very extraordinary thing.'

'Very,' said his three friends.

'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,'continued Mr. Pickwick.

'Very,' was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly,and looked dubiously at each other.

This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarkedtheir incredulity. They evidently suspected him.

'There is a man in the passage now,' said Mr. Tupman.

'It's the man I spoke to you about,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I sentfor him to the Borough this morning. Have the goodness to callhim up, Snodgrass.'

Mr. Snodgrass did as he was desired; and Mr. Samuel Wellerforthwith presented himself.

'Oh--you remember me, I suppose?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'I should think so,' replied Sam, with a patronising wink.'Queer start that 'ere, but he was one too many for you, warn'the? Up to snuff and a pinch or two over--eh?'

'Never mind that matter now,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily;'I want to speak to you about something else. Sit down.'

'Thank'ee, sir,' said Sam. And down he sat without furtherbidding, having previously deposited his old white hat on thelanding outside the door. ''Tain't a wery good 'un to look at,'said Sam, 'but it's an astonishin' 'un to wear; and afore the brimwent, it was a wery handsome tile. Hows'ever it's lighter withoutit, that's one thing, and every hole lets in some air, that's another--wentilation gossamer I calls it.' On the delivery of this sentiment,Mr. Weller smiled agreeably upon the assembled Pickwickians.

'Now with regard to the matter on which I, with the concurrenceof these gentlemen, sent for you,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'That's the pint, sir,' interposed Sam; 'out vith it, as the fathersaid to his child, when he swallowed a farden.'

'We want to know, in the first place,' said Mr. Pickwick,'whether you have any reason to be discontented with your presentsituation.'

'Afore I answers that 'ere question, gen'l'm'n,' replied Mr.Weller, 'I should like to know, in the first place, whether you'rea-goin' to purwide me with a better?'

A sunbeam of placid benevolence played on Mr. Pickwick'sfeatures as he said, 'I have half made up my mind to engage youmyself.'

'Have you, though?' said Sam.

Mr. Pickwick nodded in the affirmative.

'Wages?' inquired Sam.

'Twelve pounds a year,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Clothes?'

'Two suits.'

'Work?'

'To attend upon me; and travel about with me and thesegentlemen here.''Take the bill down,' said Sam emphatically. 'I'm let to asingle gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon.'

'You accept the situation?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.'Cert'nly,' replied Sam. 'If the clothes fits me half as well asthe place, they'll do.'

'You can get a character of course?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Ask the landlady o' the White Hart about that, Sir,' replied Sam.

'Can you come this evening?'

'I'll get into the clothes this minute, if they're here,' said Sam,with great alacrity.

'Call at eight this evening,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'and if theinquiries are satisfactory, they shall be provided.'

With the single exception of one amiable indiscretion, inwhich an assistant housemaid had equally participated, thehistory of Mr. Weller's conduct was so very blameless, that Mr.Pickwick felt fully justified in closing the engagement that veryevening. With the promptness and energy which characterisednot only the public proceedings, but all the private actions of thisextraordinary man, he at once led his new attendant to one ofthose convenient emporiums where gentlemen's new and second-hand clothes are provided, and the troublesome and inconvenientformality of measurement dispensed with; and before night hadclosed in, Mr. Weller was furnished with a grey coat with theP. C. button, a black hat with a cockade to it, a pink stripedwaistcoat, light breeches and gaiters, and a variety of othernecessaries, too numerous to recapitulate.

'Well,' said that suddenly-transformed individual, as he tookhis seat on the outside of the Eatanswill coach next morning; 'Iwonder whether I'm meant to be a footman, or a groom, or agamekeeper, or a seedsman. I looks like a sort of compo of everyone on 'em. Never mind; there's a change of air, plenty to see,and little to do; and all this suits my complaint uncommon; solong life to the Pickvicks, says I!'

CHAPTER XIIISOME ACCOUNT OF EATANSWILL; OF THE STATE OFPARTIES THEREIN; AND OF THE ELECTION OF A MEMBERTO SERVE IN PARLIAMENT FOR THAT ANCIENT, LOYAL,AND PATRIOTIC BOROUGH

We will frankly acknowledge that, up to the period of our beingfirst immersed in the voluminous papers of the Pickwick Club, wehad never heard of Eatanswill; we will with equal candour admit thatwe have in vain searched for proof of the actual existence of sucha place at the present day. Knowing the deep reliance to be placedon every note and statement of Mr. Pickwick's, and not presuming toset up our recollection against the recorded declarations of that greatman, we have consulted every authority, bearing upon the subject, towhich we could possibly refer. We have traced every name inschedules A and B, without meeting with that of Eatanswill; wehave minutely examined every corner of the pocket county mapsissued for the benefit of society by our distinguished publishers,and the same result has attended our investigation. We aretherefore led to believe that Mr. Pickwick, with that anxiousdesire to abstain from giving offence to any, and with those delicatefeelings for which all who knew him well know he was soeminently remarkable, purposely substituted a fictitious designation,for the real name of the place in which his observationswere made. We are confirmed in this belief by a little circumstance,apparently slight and trivial in itself, but when consideredin this point of view, not undeserving of notice. In Mr. Pickwick'snote-book, we can just trace an entry of the fact, that theplaces of himself and followers were booked by the Norwichcoach; but this entry was afterwards lined through, as if for thepurpose of concealing even the direction in which the boroughis situated. We will not, therefore, hazard a guess upon thesubject, but will at once proceed with this history, content withthe materials which its characters have provided for us.

It appears, then, that the Eatanswill people, like the people ofmany other small towns, considered themselves of the utmostand most mighty importance, and that every man in Eatanswill,conscious of the weight that attached to his example, felt himselfbound to unite, heart and soul, with one of the two great partiesthat divided the town--the Blues and the Buffs. Now the Blueslost no opportunity of opposing the Buffs, and the Buffs lost noopportunity of opposing the Blues; and the consequence was,that whenever the Buffs and Blues met together at public meeting,town-hall, fair, or market, disputes and high words arosebetween them. With these dissensions it is almost superfluous tosay that everything in Eatanswill was made a party question. Ifthe Buffs proposed to new skylight the market-place, the Bluesgot up public meetings, and denounced the proceeding; if theBlues proposed the erection of an additional pump in the HighStreet, the Buffs rose as one man and stood aghast at the enormity.There were Blue shops and Buff shops, Blue inns and Buffinns--there was a Blue aisle and a Buff aisle in the very church itself.

Of course it was essentially and indispensably necessary thateach of these powerful parties should have its chosen organ andrepresentative: and, accordingly, there were two newspapers inthe town--the Eatanswill GAZETTE and the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT;the former advocating Blue principles, and the latter conductedon grounds decidedly Buff. Fine newspapers they were. Suchleading articles, and such spirited attacks!--'Our worthlesscontemporary, the GAZETTE'--'That disgraceful and dastardly journal,the INDEPENDENT'--'That false and scurrilous print, the INDEPENDENT'--'That vile and slanderous calumniator, the GAZETTE;' these,and other spirit-stirring denunciations, were strewn plentifullyover the columns of each, in every number, and excited feelingsof the most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of thetownspeople.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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