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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 32)


'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, 'you're a fellow.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'you're another!'

Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr.Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into afocus by means of his spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance.Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle looked on, petrified at beholdingsuch a scene between two such men.

'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, after a short pause, speaking in a low,deep voice, 'you have called me old.'

'I have,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'And fat.'

'I reiterate the charge.'

'And a fellow.'

'So you are!'

There was a fearful pause.

'My attachment to your person, sir,' said Mr. Tupman,speaking in a voice tremulous with emotion, and tucking up hiswristbands meanwhile, 'is great--very great--but upon thatperson, I must take summary vengeance.'

'Come on, Sir!' replied Mr. Pickwick. Stimulated by theexciting nature of the dialogue, the heroic man actually threwhimself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the twobystanders to have been intended as a posture of defence.

'What!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, suddenly recovering thepower of speech, of which intense astonishment had previouslybereft him, and rushing between the two, at the imminent hazardof receiving an application on the temple from each--'what!Mr. Pickwick, with the eyes of the world upon you! Mr. Tupman!who, in common with us all, derives a lustre from hisundying name! For shame, gentlemen; for shame.'

The unwonted lines which momentary passion had ruled inMr. Pickwick's clear and open brow, gradually melted away, ashis young friend spoke, like the marks of a black-lead pencilbeneath the softening influence of india-rubber. His countenancehad resumed its usual benign expression, ere he concluded.

'I have been hasty,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'very hasty. Tupman;your hand.'

The dark shadow passed from Mr. Tupman's face, as hewarmly grasped the hand of his friend.

'I have been hasty, too,' said he.

'No, no,' interrupted Mr. Pickwick, 'the fault was mine. Youwill wear the green velvet jacket?'

'No, no,' replied Mr. Tupman.

'To oblige me, you will,' resumed Mr. Pickwick.

'Well, well, I will,' said Mr. Tupman.

It was accordingly settled that Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, andMr. Snodgrass, should all wear fancy-dresses. Thus Mr. Pickwickwas led by the very warmth of his own good feelings to give hisconsent to a proceeding from which his better judgment wouldhave recoiled--a more striking illustration of his amiablecharacter could hardly have been conceived, even if the eventsrecorded in these pages had been wholly imaginary.

Mr. Leo Hunter had not exaggerated the resources of Mr.Solomon Lucas. His wardrobe was extensive--very extensive--not strictly classical perhaps, not quite new, nor did it containany one garment made precisely after the fashion of any age ortime, but everything was more or less spangled; and what can beprettier than spangles! It may be objected that they are notadapted to the daylight, but everybody knows that they wouldglitter if there were lamps; and nothing can be clearer than thatif people give fancy-balls in the day-time, and the dresses do notshow quite as well as they would by night, the fault lies solelywith the people who give the fancy-balls, and is in no wisechargeable on the spangles. Such was the convincing reasoningof Mr. Solomon Lucas; and influenced by such arguments didMr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass engageto array themselves in costumes which his taste and experienceinduced him to recommend as admirably suited to the occasion.

A carriage was hired from the Town Arms, for the accommodationof the Pickwickians, and a chariot was ordered fromthe same repository, for the purpose of conveying Mr. and Mrs.Pott to Mrs. Leo Hunter's grounds, which Mr. Pott, as a delicateacknowledgment of having received an invitation, had alreadyconfidently predicted in the Eatanswill GAZETTE 'would present ascene of varied and delicious enchantment--a bewilderingcoruscation of beauty and talent--a lavish and prodigal displayof hospitality--above all, a degree of splendour softened by themost exquisite taste; and adornment refined with perfectharmony and the chastest good keeping--compared withwhich, the fabled gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland itself wouldappear to be clothed in as many dark and murky colours, asmust be the mind of the splenetic and unmanly being who couldpresume to taint with the venom of his envy, the preparationsmade by the virtuous and highly distinguished lady at whoseshrine this humble tribute of admiration was offered.' Thislast was a piece of biting sarcasm against the INDEPENDENT,who, in consequence of not having been invited at all, hadbeen, through four numbers, affecting to sneer at the wholeaffair, in his very largest type, with all the adjectives incapital letters.

The morning came: it was a pleasant sight to behold Mr.Tupman in full brigand's costume, with a very tight jacket,sitting like a pincushion over his back and shoulders, the upperportion of his legs incased in the velvet shorts, and the lower partthereof swathed in the complicated bandages to which allbrigands are peculiarly attached. It was pleasing to see his openand ingenuous countenance, well mustachioed and corked,looking out from an open shirt collar; and to contemplate thesugar-loaf hat, decorated with ribbons of all colours, which hewas compelled to carry on his knee, inasmuch as no knownconveyance with a top to it, would admit of any man's carryingit between his head and the roof. Equally humorous and agreeablewas the appearance of Mr. Snodgrass in blue satin trunksand cloak, white silk tights and shoes, and Grecian helmet, whicheverybody knows (and if they do not, Mr. Solomon Lucas did)to have been the regular, authentic, everyday costume of atroubadour, from the earliest ages down to the time of theirfinal disappearance from the face of the earth. All this waspleasant, but this was as nothing compared with the shoutingof the populace when the carriage drew up, behind Mr. Pott's chariot,which chariot itself drew up at Mr. Pott's door, which door itselfopened, and displayed the great Pott accoutred as a Russian officerof justice, with a tremendous knout in his hand--tastefully typical ofthe stern and mighty power of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, and the fearfullashings it bestowed on public offenders.

'Bravo!' shouted Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from thepassage, when they beheld the walking allegory.

'Bravo!' Mr. Pickwick was heard to exclaim, from the passage.

'Hoo-roar Pott!' shouted the populace. Amid these salutations,Mr. Pott, smiling with that kind of bland dignity whichsufficiently testified that he felt his power, and knew how toexert it, got into the chariot.

Then there emerged from the house, Mrs. Pott, who wouldhave looked very like Apollo if she hadn't had a gown on,conducted by Mr. Winkle, who, in his light-red coat could notpossibly have been mistaken for anything but a sportsman, if hehad not borne an equal resemblance to a general postman. Lastof all came Mr. Pickwick, whom the boys applauded as loud asanybody, probably under the impression that his tights andgaiters were some remnants of the dark ages; and then the twovehicles proceeded towards Mrs. Leo Hunter's; Mr. Weller(who was to assist in waiting) being stationed on the box of thatin which his master was seated.

Every one of the men, women, boys, girls, and babies, whowere assembled to see the visitors in their fancy-dresses, screamedwith delight and ecstasy, when Mr. Pickwick, with the brigandon one arm, and the troubadour on the other, walked solemnlyup the entrance. Never were such shouts heard as those whichgreeted Mr. Tupman's efforts to fix the sugar-loaf hat on hishead, by way of entering the garden in style.

The preparations were on the most delightful scale; fullyrealising the prophetic Pott's anticipations about the gorgeousnessof Eastern fairyland, and at once affording a sufficientcontradiction to the malignant statements of the reptile INDEPENDENT.The grounds were more than an acre and a quarter inextent, and they were filled with people! Never was such a blazeof beauty, and fashion, and literature. There was the young ladywho 'did' the poetry in the Eatanswill GAZETTE, in the garb of asultana, leaning upon the arm of the young gentleman who 'did'the review department, and who was appropriately habited in afield-marshal's uniform--the boots excepted. There were hosts ofthese geniuses, and any reasonable person would have thought ithonour enough to meet them. But more than these, there werehalf a dozen lions from London--authors, real authors, who hadwritten whole books, and printed them afterwards--and hereyou might see 'em, walking about, like ordinary men, smiling,and talking--aye, and talking pretty considerable nonsense too,no doubt with the benign intention of rendering themselvesintelligible to the common people about them. Moreover, therewas a band of music in pasteboard caps; four something-eansingers in the costume of their country, and a dozen hiredwaiters in the costume of THEIR country--and very dirty costumetoo. And above all, there was Mrs. Leo Hunter in the characterof Minerva, receiving the company, and overflowing with prideand gratification at the notion of having called such distinguishedindividuals together.

'Mr. Pickwick, ma'am,' said a servant, as that gentlemanapproached the presiding goddess, with his hat in his hand, andthe brigand and troubadour on either arm.

'What! Where!' exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, starting up, inan affected rapture of surprise.

'Here,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Is it possible that I have really the gratification of beholdingMr. Pickwick himself!' ejaculated Mrs. Leo Hunter.

'No other, ma'am,' replied Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low.'Permit me to introduce my friends--Mr. Tupman--Mr. Winkle--Mr. Snodgrass--to the authoress of "The Expiring Frog."'Very few people but those who have tried it, know what adifficult process it is to bow in green velvet smalls, and a tightjacket, and high-crowned hat; or in blue satin trunks and whitesilks, or knee-cords and top-boots that were never made forthe wearer, and have been fixed upon him without theremotest reference to the comparative dimensions of himself andthe suit. Never were such distortions as Mr. Tupman's frameunderwent in his efforts to appear easy and graceful--neverwas such ingenious posturing, as his fancy-dressed friends exhibited.

'Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'I must make youpromise not to stir from my side the whole day. There arehundreds of people here, that I must positively introduce you to.'

'You are very kind, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'In the first place, here are my little girls; I had almostforgotten them,' said Minerva, carelessly pointing towards a coupleof full-grown young ladies, of whom one might be about twenty,and the other a year or two older, and who were dressed invery juvenile costumes--whether to make them look young,or their mamma younger, Mr. Pickwick does not distinctlyinform us.

'They are very beautiful,' said Mr. Pickwick, as the juvenilesturned away, after being presented.

'They are very like their mamma, Sir,' said Mr. Pott, majestically.

'Oh, you naughty man,' exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, playfullytapping the editor's arm with her fan (Minerva with a fan!).

'Why now, my dear Mrs. Hunter,' said Mr. Pott, who wastrumpeter in ordinary at the Den, 'you know that when yourpicture was in the exhibition of the Royal Academy, last year,everybody inquired whether it was intended for you, or youryoungest daughter; for you were so much alike that there was notelling the difference between you.'

'Well, and if they did, why need you repeat it, before strangers?'said Mrs. Leo Hunter, bestowing another tap on the slumberinglion of the Eatanswill GAZETTE.

'Count, count,' screamed Mrs. Leo Hunter to a well-whiskeredindividual in a foreign uniform, who was passing by.

'Ah! you want me?' said the count, turning back.

'I want to introduce two very clever people to each other,' saidMrs. Leo Hunter. 'Mr. Pickwick, I have great pleasure inintroducing you to Count Smorltork.' She added in a hurriedwhisper to Mr. Pickwick--'The famous foreigner--gatheringmaterials for his great work on England--hem!--Count Smorltork,Mr. Pickwick.'Mr. Pickwick saluted the count with all the reverence due to sogreat a man, and the count drew forth a set of tablets.

'What you say, Mrs. Hunt?' inquired the count, smilinggraciously on the gratified Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'Pig Vig or BigVig--what you call--lawyer--eh? I see--that is it. Big Vig'--and the count was proceeding to enter Mr. Pickwick in histablets, as a gentleman of the long robe, who derived his namefrom the profession to which he belonged, when Mrs. LeoHunter interposed.

'No, no, count,' said the lady, 'Pick-wick.'

'Ah, ah, I see,' replied the count. 'Peek--christian name;Weeks--surname; good, ver good. Peek Weeks. How you do, Weeks?'

'Quite well, I thank you,' replied Mr. Pickwick, with all hisusual affability. 'Have you been long in England?'

'Long--ver long time--fortnight--more.'

'Do you stay here long?'

'One week.'

'You will have enough to do,' said Mr. Pickwick smiling, 'togather all the materials you want in that time.'

'Eh, they are gathered,' said the count.

'Indeed!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'They are here,' added the count, tapping his foreheadsignificantly. 'Large book at home--full of notes--music,picture, science, potry, poltic; all tings.'

'The word politics, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'comprises initself, a difficult study of no inconsiderable magnitude.'

'Ah!' said the count, drawing out the tablets again, 'ver good--fine words to begin a chapter. Chapter forty-seven. Poltics.The word poltic surprises by himself--' And down went Mr.Pickwick's remark, in Count Smorltork's tablets, with suchvariations and additions as the count's exuberant fancy suggested,or his imperfect knowledge of the language occasioned.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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