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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 27)


'Oh, nonsense, don't talk to me,' said Mrs. Pott. 'Do you playecarte, Sir?'

'I shall be very happy to learn under your tuition,' repliedMr. Winkle.

'Well, then, draw that little table into this window, and let meget out of hearing of those prosy politics.'

'Jane,' said Mr. Pott, to the servant who brought in candles,'go down into the office, and bring me up the file of the GAZETTEfor eighteen hundred and twenty-six. I'll read you,' added theeditor, turning to Mr. Pickwick--'I'll just read you a few of theleaders I wrote at that time upon the Buff job of appointing a newtollman to the turnpike here; I rather think they'll amuse you.'

'I should like to hear them very much indeed,' said Mr. Pickwick.

Up came the file, and down sat the editor, with Mr. Pickwickat his side.

We have in vain pored over the leaves of Mr. Pickwick'snote-book, in the hope of meeting with a general summary ofthese beautiful compositions. We have every reason to believethat he was perfectly enraptured with the vigour and freshness ofthe style; indeed Mr. Winkle has recorded the fact that his eyeswere closed, as if with excess of pleasure, during the whole timeof their perusal.

The announcement of supper put a stop both to the game ofecarte, and the recapitulation of the beauties of the EatanswillGAZETTE. Mrs. Pott was in the highest spirits and the mostagreeable humour. Mr. Winkle had already made considerableprogress in her good opinion, and she did not hesitate to informhim, confidentially, that Mr. Pickwick was 'a delightful old dear.'These terms convey a familiarity of expression, in which few ofthose who were intimately acquainted with that colossal-mindedman, would have presumed to indulge. We have preserved them,nevertheless, as affording at once a touching and a convincingproof of the estimation in which he was held by every class ofsociety, and the case with which he made his way to their heartsand feelings.

It was a late hour of the night--long after Mr. Tupman andMr. Snodgrass had fallen asleep in the inmost recesses of thePeacock--when the two friends retired to rest. Slumber soon fellupon the senses of Mr. Winkle, but his feelings had been excited,and his admiration roused; and for many hours after sleep hadrendered him insensible to earthly objects, the face and figure ofthe agreeable Mrs. Pott presented themselves again and againto his wandering imagination.

The noise and bustle which ushered in the morning weresufficient to dispel from the mind of the most romantic visionaryin existence, any associations but those which were immediatelyconnected with the rapidly-approaching election. The beating ofdrums, the blowing of horns and trumpets, the shouting of men,and tramping of horses, echoed and re--echoed through the streetsfrom the earliest dawn of day; and an occasional fight betweenthe light skirmishers of either party at once enlivened thepreparations, and agreeably diversified their character.'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, as his valet appeared at hisbedroom door, just as he was concluding his toilet; 'all aliveto-day, I suppose?'

'Reg'lar game, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'our people's a-collectingdown at the Town Arms, and they're a-hollering themselveshoarse already.'

'Ah,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'do they seem devoted to their party, Sam?'

'Never see such dewotion in my life, Sir.'

'Energetic, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Uncommon,' replied Sam; 'I never see men eat and drink somuch afore. I wonder they ain't afeer'd o' bustin'.'

'That's the mistaken kindness of the gentry here,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Wery likely,' replied Sam briefly.

'Fine, fresh, hearty fellows they seem,' said Mr. Pickwick,glancing from the window.

'Wery fresh,' replied Sam; 'me and the two waiters at thePeacock has been a-pumpin' over the independent woters assupped there last night.'

'Pumping over independent voters!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

'Yes,' said his attendant, 'every man slept vere he fell down;we dragged 'em out, one by one, this mornin', and put 'em underthe pump, and they're in reg'lar fine order now. Shillin' a headthe committee paid for that 'ere job.'

'Can such things be!' exclaimed the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

'Lord bless your heart, sir,' said Sam, 'why where was you halfbaptised?--that's nothin', that ain't.'

'Nothing?'said Mr. Pickwick.'Nothin' at all, Sir,' replied his attendant. 'The night afore thelast day o' the last election here, the opposite party bribed thebarmaid at the Town Arms, to hocus the brandy-and-water offourteen unpolled electors as was a-stoppin' in the house.'

'What do you mean by "hocussing" brandy-and-water?'inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Puttin' laud'num in it,' replied Sam. 'Blessed if she didn'tsend 'em all to sleep till twelve hours arter the election was over.They took one man up to the booth, in a truck, fast asleep, byway of experiment, but it was no go--they wouldn't poll him; sothey brought him back, and put him to bed again.''Strange practices, these,' said Mr. Pickwick; half speaking tohimself and half addressing Sam.

'Not half so strange as a miraculous circumstance as happenedto my own father, at an election time, in this wery place, Sir,'replied Sam.

'What was that?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Why, he drove a coach down here once,' said Sam; ''lectiontime came on, and he was engaged by vun party to bring downwoters from London. Night afore he was going to drive up,committee on t' other side sends for him quietly, and away hegoes vith the messenger, who shows him in;--large room--lots ofgen'l'm'n--heaps of papers, pens and ink, and all that 'ere. "Ah,Mr. Weller," says the gen'l'm'n in the chair, "glad to see you, sir;how are you?"--"Wery well, thank 'ee, Sir," says my father; "Ihope you're pretty middlin," says he.--"Pretty well, thank'ee, Sir,"says the gen'l'm'n; "sit down, Mr. Weller--pray sit down, sir."So my father sits down, and he and the gen'l'm'n looks weryhard at each other. "You don't remember me?" said thegen'l'm'n.--"Can't say I do," says my father.--"Oh, I knowyou," says the gen'l'm'n: "know'd you when you was a boy,"says he.--"Well, I don't remember you," says my father.--"That's wery odd," says the gen'l'm'n."--"Wery," says myfather.--"You must have a bad mem'ry, Mr. Weller," says thegen'l'm'n.--"Well, it is a wery bad 'un," says my father.--"Ithought so," says the gen'l'm'n. So then they pours him out aglass of wine, and gammons him about his driving, and gets himinto a reg'lar good humour, and at last shoves a twenty-poundnote into his hand. "It's a wery bad road between this andLondon," says the gen'l'm'n.--"Here and there it is a heavyroad," says my father.--" 'Specially near the canal, I think,"says the gen'l'm'n.--"Nasty bit that 'ere," says my father.--"Well, Mr. Weller," says the gen'l'm'n, "you're a wery goodwhip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know.We're all wery fond o' you, Mr. Weller, so in case you should havean accident when you're bringing these here woters down, andshould tip 'em over into the canal vithout hurtin' of 'em, this isfor yourself," says he.--"Gen'l'm'n, you're wery kind," says myfather, "and I'll drink your health in another glass of wine," sayshe; vich he did, and then buttons up the money, and bowshimself out. You wouldn't believe, sir,' continued Sam, with alook of inexpressible impudence at his master, 'that on the weryday as he came down with them woters, his coach WAS upset onthat 'ere wery spot, and ev'ry man on 'em was turned into the canal.'

'And got out again?' inquired Mr. Pickwick hastily.

'Why,' replied Sam very slowly, 'I rather think one oldgen'l'm'n was missin'; I know his hat was found, but I ain'tquite certain whether his head was in it or not. But what I lookat is the hex-traordinary and wonderful coincidence, that arterwhat that gen'l'm'n said, my father's coach should be upset inthat wery place, and on that wery day!'

'it is, no doubt, a very extraordinary circumstance indeed,'said Mr. Pickwick. 'But brush my hat, Sam, for I hear Mr. Winklecalling me to breakfast.'

With these words Mr. Pickwick descended to the parlour,where he found breakfast laid, and the family already assembled.The meal was hastily despatched; each of the gentlemen's hatswas decorated with an enormous blue favour, made up by thefair hands of Mrs. Pott herself; and as Mr. Winkle had undertakento escort that lady to a house-top, in the immediatevicinity of the hustings, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Pott repairedalone to the Town Arms, from the back window of which, one ofMr. Slumkey's committee was addressing six small boys and onegirl, whom he dignified, at every second sentence, with theimposing title of 'Men of Eatanswill,' whereat the six small boysaforesaid cheered prodigiously.

The stable-yard exhibited unequivocal symptoms of the gloryand strength of the Eatanswill Blues. There was a regular armyof blue flags, some with one handle, and some with two,exhibiting appropriate devices, in golden characters four feet high,and stout in proportion. There was a grand band of trumpets,bassoons, and drums, marshalled four abreast, and earning theirmoney, if ever men did, especially the drum-beaters, who werevery muscular. There were bodies of constables with blue staves,twenty committee-men with blue scarfs, and a mob of voterswith blue cockades. There were electors on horseback andelectors afoot. There was an open carriage-and-four, for theHonourable Samuel Slumkey; and there were four carriage-and-pair, for his friends and supporters; and the flags were rustling,and the band was playing, and the constables were swearing, andthe twenty committee-men were squabbling, and the mob wereshouting, and the horses were backing, and the post-boysperspiring; and everybody, and everything, then and thereassembled, was for the special use, behoof, honour, and renown,of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, one of thecandidates for the representation of the borough of Eatanswill,in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom.Loud and long were the cheers, and mighty was the rustling ofone of the blue flags, with 'Liberty of the Press' inscribed thereon,when the sandy head of Mr. Pott was discerned in one of thewindows, by the mob beneath; and tremendous was theenthusiasm when the Honourable Samuel Slumkey himself, intop-boots, and a blue neckerchief, advanced and seized the handof the said Pott, and melodramatically testified by gesturesto the crowd, his ineffaceable obligations to the Eatanswill GAZETTE.

'Is everything ready?' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkeyto Mr. Perker.

'Everything, my dear Sir,' was the little man's reply.

'Nothing has been omitted, I hope?' said the HonourableSamuel Slumkey.

'Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir--nothing whatever.There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shakehands with; and six children in arms that you're to pat on thehead, and inquire the age of; be particular about the children,my dear sir--it has always a great effect, that sort of thing.'

'I'll take care,' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

'And, perhaps, my dear Sir,' said the cautious little man,'perhaps if you could--I don't mean to say it's indispensable--but if you could manage to kiss one of 'em, it would produce avery great impression on the crowd.'

'Wouldn't it have as good an effect if the proposer or seconderdid that?' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

'Why, I am afraid it wouldn't,' replied the agent; 'if it weredone by yourself, my dear Sir, I think it would make you very popular.'

'Very well,' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with aresigned air, 'then it must be done. That's all.'

'Arrange the procession,' cried the twenty committee-men.

Amidst the cheers of the assembled throng, the band, and theconstables, and the committee-men, and the voters, and thehorsemen, and the carriages, took their places--each of the two-horse vehicles being closely packed with as many gentlemen ascould manage to stand upright in it; and that assigned to Mr.Perker, containing Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass,and about half a dozen of the committee besides.

There was a moment of awful suspense as the processionwaited for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to step into hiscarriage. Suddenly the crowd set up a great cheering.

'He has come out,' said little Mr. Perker, greatly excited; themore so as their position did not enable them to see what wasgoing forward.

Another cheer, much louder.

'He has shaken hands with the men,' cried the little agent.

Another cheer, far more vehement.

'He has patted the babies on the head,' said Mr. Perker,trembling with anxiety.

A roar of applause that rent the air.

'He has kissed one of 'em!' exclaimed the delighted little man.

A second roar.

'He has kissed another,' gasped the excited manager.

A third roar.

'He's kissing 'em all!' screamed the enthusiastic little gentleman,and hailed by the deafening shouts of the multitude, theprocession moved on.

How or by what means it became mixed up with the otherprocession, and how it was ever extricated from the confusionconsequent thereupon, is more than we can undertake to describe,inasmuch as Mr. Pickwick's hat was knocked over his eyes, nose,and mouth, by one poke of a Buff flag-staff, very early in theproceedings. He describes himself as being surrounded on everyside, when he could catch a glimpse of the scene, by angry andferocious countenances, by a vast cloud of dust, and by a densecrowd of combatants. He represents himself as being forcedfrom the carriage by some unseen power, and being personallyengaged in a pugilistic encounter; but with whom, or how, orwhy, he is wholly unable to state. He then felt himself forced upsome wooden steps by the persons from behind; and on removinghis hat, found himself surrounded by his friends, in the veryfront of the left hand side of the hustings. The right was reservedfor the Buff party, and the centre for the mayor and his officers;one of whom--the fat crier of Eatanswill--was ringing anenormous bell, by way of commanding silence, while Mr.Horatio Fizkin, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with theirhands upon their hearts, were bowing with the utmost affabilityto the troubled sea of heads that inundated the open space infront; and from whence arose a storm of groans, and shouts,and yells, and hootings, that would have done honour to an earthquake.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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