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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 28)


'There's Winkle,' said Mr. Tupman, pulling his friend by the sleeve.

'Where!' said Mr. Pickwick, putting on his spectacles, whichhe had fortunately kept in his pocket hitherto.'There,' said Mr. Tupman, 'on the top of that house.' Andthere, sure enough, in the leaden gutter of a tiled roof, wereMr. Winkle and Mrs. Pott, comfortably seated in a couple ofchairs, waving their handkerchiefs in token of recognition--acompliment which Mr. Pickwick returned by kissing his hand tothe lady.

The proceedings had not yet commenced; and as an inactivecrowd is generally disposed to be jocose, this very innocentaction was sufficient to awaken their facetiousness.

'Oh, you wicked old rascal,' cried one voice, 'looking arter thegirls, are you?'

'Oh, you wenerable sinner,' cried another.

'Putting on his spectacles to look at a married 'ooman!' said athird.

'I see him a-winkin' at her, with his wicked old eye,' shouted afourth.

'Look arter your wife, Pott,' bellowed a fifth--and then therewas a roar of laughter.

As these taunts were accompanied with invidious comparisonsbetween Mr. Pickwick and an aged ram, and several witticisms ofthe like nature; and as they moreover rather tended to conveyreflections upon the honour of an innocent lady, Mr. Pickwick'sindignation was excessive; but as silence was proclaimed at themoment, he contented himself by scorching the mob with a lookof pity for their misguided minds, at which they laughed moreboisterously than ever.

'Silence!' roared the mayor's attendants.

'Whiffin, proclaim silence,' said the mayor, with an air ofpomp befitting his lofty station. In obedience to this command thecrier performed another concerto on the bell, whereupon agentleman in the crowd called out 'Muffins'; which occasionedanother laugh.

'Gentlemen,' said the mayor, at as loud a pitch as he couldpossibly force his voice to--'gentlemen. Brother electors of theborough of Eatanswill. We are met here to-day for the purposeof choosing a representative in the room of our late--'

Here the mayor was interrupted by a voice in the crowd.

'Suc-cess to the mayor!' cried the voice, 'and may he neverdesert the nail and sarspan business, as he got his money by.'

This allusion to the professional pursuits of the orator wasreceived with a storm of delight, which, with a bell-accompaniment,rendered the remainder of his speech inaudible, with theexception of the concluding sentence, in which he thanked themeeting for the patient attention with which they heard himthroughout--an expression of gratitude which elicited anotherburst of mirth, of about a quarter of an hour's duration.

Next, a tall, thin gentleman, in a very stiff white neckerchief,after being repeatedly desired by the crowd to 'send a boy home,to ask whether he hadn't left his voice under the pillow,' begged tonominate a fit and proper person to represent them in Parliament.And when he said it was Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of FizkinLodge, near Eatanswill, the Fizkinites applauded, and theSlumkeyites groaned, so long, and so loudly, that both he andthe seconder might have sung comic songs in lieu of speaking,without anybody's being a bit the wiser.

The friends of Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, having had theirinnings, a little choleric, pink-faced man stood forward topropose another fit and proper person to represent the electors ofEatanswill in Parliament; and very swimmingly the pink-facedgentleman would have got on, if he had not been rather toocholeric to entertain a sufficient perception of the fun of thecrowd. But after a very few sentences of figurative eloquence, thepink-faced gentleman got from denouncing those who interruptedhim in the mob, to exchanging defiances with the gentlemenon the hustings; whereupon arose an uproar which reducedhim to the necessity of expressing his feelings by serious pantomime,which he did, and then left the stage to his seconder, whodelivered a written speech of half an hour's length, and wouldn'tbe stopped, because he had sent it all to the Eatanswill GAZETTE,and the Eatanswill GAZETTE had already printed it, every word.

Then Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill,presented himself for the purpose of addressing the electors;which he no sooner did, than the band employed by the HonourableSamuel Slumkey, commenced performing with a power towhich their strength in the morning was a trifle; in return forwhich, the Buff crowd belaboured the heads and shoulders of theBlue crowd; on which the Blue crowd endeavoured to dispossessthemselves of their very unpleasant neighbours the Buff crowd;and a scene of struggling, and pushing, and fighting, succeeded,to which we can no more do justice than the mayor could,although he issued imperative orders to twelve constables toseize the ringleaders, who might amount in number to twohundred and fifty, or thereabouts. At all these encounters,Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and his friends, waxedfierce and furious; until at last Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of FizkinLodge, begged to ask his opponent, the Honourable SamuelSlumkey, of Slumkey Hall, whether that band played by hisconsent; which question the Honourable Samuel Slumkeydeclining to answer, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge,shook his fist in the countenance of the Honourable SamuelSlumkey, of Slumkey Hall; upon which the Honourable SamuelSlumkey, his blood being up, defied Horatio Fizkin, Esquire,to mortal combat. At this violation of all known rules andprecedents of order, the mayor commanded another fantasia onthe bell, and declared that he would bring before himself, bothHoratio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and the HonourableSamuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, and bind them over to keepthe peace. Upon this terrific denunciation, the supporters of thetwo candidates interfered, and after the friends of each party hadquarrelled in pairs, for three-quarters of an hour, HoratioFizkin, Esquire, touched his hat to the Honourable SamuelSlumkey; the Honourable Samuel Slumkey touched his toHoratio Fizkin, Esquire; the band was stopped; the crowd werepartially quieted; and Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, was permittedto proceed.

The speeches of the two candidates, though differing in everyother respect, afforded a beautiful tribute to the merit and highworth of the electors of Eatanswill. Both expressed their opinionthat a more independent, a more enlightened, a more public-spirited, a more noble-minded, a more disinterested set of menthan those who had promised to vote for him, never existed onearth; each darkly hinted his suspicions that the electors in theopposite interest had certain swinish and besotted infirmitieswhich rendered them unfit for the exercise of the importantduties they were called upon to discharge. Fizkin expressed hisreadiness to do anything he was wanted: Slumkey, his determinationto do nothing that was asked of him. Both said that thetrade, the manufactures, the commerce, the prosperity ofEatanswill, would ever be dearer to their hearts than any earthlyobject; and each had it in his power to state, with the utmostconfidence, that he was the man who would eventually be returned.

There was a show of hands; the mayor decided in favour of theHonourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall. Horatio Fizkin,Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, demanded a poll, and a poll was fixedaccordingly. Then a vote of thanks was moved to the mayor forhis able conduct in the chair; and the mayor, devoutly wishingthat he had had a chair to display his able conduct in (for he hadbeen standing during the whole proceedings), returned thanks.The processions reformed, the carriages rolled slowly throughthe crowd, and its members screeched and shouted after them astheir feelings or caprice dictated.

During the whole time of the polling, the town was in aperpetual fever of excitement. Everything was conducted on themost liberal and delightful scale. Excisable articles were remarkablycheap at all the public-houses; and spring vans paraded thestreets for the accommodation of voters who were seized withany temporary dizziness in the head--an epidemic which prevailedamong the electors, during the contest, to a most alarmingextent, and under the influence of which they might frequentlybe seen lying on the pavements in a state of utter insensibility. Asmall body of electors remained unpolled on the very last day.They were calculating and reflecting persons, who had not yetbeen convinced by the arguments of either party, although theyhad frequent conferences with each. One hour before the closeof the poll, Mr. Perker solicited the honour of a private interviewwith these intelligent, these noble, these patriotic men. it wasgranted. His arguments were brief but satisfactory. They went ina body to the poll; and when they returned, the HonourableSamuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, was returned also.

CHAPTER XIVCOMPRISING A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPANYAT THE PEACOCK ASSEMBLED; AND A TALE TOLD BY ABAGMAN

It is pleasant to turn from contemplating the strife andturmoil of political existence, to the peaceful repose ofprivate life. Although in reality no great partisan of either side,Mr. Pickwick was sufficiently fired with Mr. Pott's enthusiasm,to apply his whole time and attention to the proceedings, ofwhich the last chapter affords a description compiled from hisown memoranda. Nor while he was thus occupied was Mr.Winkle idle, his whole time being devoted to pleasant walks andshort country excursions with Mrs. Pott, who never failed, whensuch an opportunity presented itself, to seek some relief from thetedious monotony she so constantly complained of. The twogentlemen being thus completely domesticated in the editor'shouse, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were in a great measurecast upon their own resources. Taking but little interest in publicaffairs, they beguiled their time chiefly with such amusements asthe Peacock afforded, which were limited to a bagatelle-board inthe first floor, and a sequestered skittle-ground in the back yard.In the science and nicety of both these recreations, which are farmore abstruse than ordinary men suppose, they were graduallyinitiated by Mr. Weller, who possessed a perfect knowledge ofsuch pastimes. Thus, notwithstanding that they were in a greatmeasure deprived of the comfort and advantage of Mr. Pickwick'ssociety, they were still enabled to beguile the time, and toprevent its hanging heavily on their hands.

It was in the evening, however, that the Peacock presentedattractions which enabled the two friends to resist even theinvitations of the gifted, though prosy, Pott. It was in the eveningthat the 'commercial room' was filled with a social circle, whosecharacters and manners it was the delight of Mr. Tupman toobserve; whose sayings and doings it was the habit of Mr.Snodgrass to note down.

Most people know what sort of places commercial roomsusually are. That of the Peacock differed in no material respectfrom the generality of such apartments; that is to say, it was alarge, bare-looking room, the furniture of which had no doubtbeen better when it was newer, with a spacious table in the centre,and a variety of smaller dittos in the corners; an extensiveassortment of variously shaped chairs, and an old Turkey carpet,bearing about the same relative proportion to the size of theroom, as a lady's pocket-handkerchief might to the floor of awatch-box. The walls were garnished with one or two largemaps; and several weather-beaten rough greatcoats, withcomplicated capes, dangled from a long row of pegs in onecorner. The mantel-shelf was ornamented with a wooden inkstand,containing one stump of a pen and half a wafer; a road-book and directory; a county history minus the cover; and themortal remains of a trout in a glass coffin. The atmosphere wasredolent of tobacco-smoke, the fumes of which had communicateda rather dingy hue to the whole room, and more especiallyto the dusty red curtains which shaded the windows. On thesideboard a variety of miscellaneous articles were huddledtogether, the most conspicuous of which were some very cloudyfish-sauce cruets, a couple of driving-boxes, two or three whips,and as many travelling shawls, a tray of knives and forks, andthe mustard.

Here it was that Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were seatedon the evening after the conclusion of the election, with severalother temporary inmates of the house, smoking and drinking.

'Well, gents,' said a stout, hale personage of about forty, withonly one eye--a very bright black eye, which twinkled with aroguish expression of fun and good-humour, 'our noble selves,gents. I always propose that toast to the company, and drinkMary to myself. Eh, Mary!'

'Get along with you, you wretch,' said the hand-maiden,obviously not ill-pleased with the compliment, however.

'Don't go away, Mary,' said the black-eyed man.

'Let me alone, imperence,' said the young lady.

'Never mind,' said the one-eyed man, calling after the girl asshe left the room. 'I'll step out by and by, Mary. Keep yourspirits up, dear.' Here he went through the not very difficultprocess of winking upon the company with his solitary eye, tothe enthusiastic delight of an elderly personage with a dirty faceand a clay pipe.

'Rum creeters is women,' said the dirty-faced man, after a pause.

'Ah! no mistake about that,' said a very red-faced man,behind a cigar.

After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause.

'There's rummer things than women in this world though,mind you,' said the man with the black eye, slowly filling a largeDutch pipe, with a most capacious bowl.

'Are you married?' inquired the dirty-faced man.

'Can't say I am.'

'I thought not.' Here the dirty-faced man fell into ecstasies ofmirth at his own retort, in which he was joined by a man ofbland voice and placid countenance, who always made it a pointto agree with everybody.

'Women, after all, gentlemen,' said the enthusiastic Mr.Snodgrass, 'are the great props and comforts of our existence.'

'So they are,' said the placid gentleman.

'When they're in a good humour,' interposed the dirty-faced man.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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