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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 43)


'Sam, I will go immediately to Mr. Perker's.'

'That's just exactly the wery place vere you ought to have gonelast night, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'I think it is, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.'I KNOW it is,' said Mr. Weller.

'Well, well, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'we will go there atonce; but first, as I have been rather ruffled, I should like a glassof brandy-and-water warm, Sam. Where can I have it, Sam?'

Mr. Weller's knowledge of London was extensive and peculiar.He replied, without the slightest consideration--

'Second court on the right hand side--last house but vun onthe same side the vay--take the box as stands in the first fireplace,'cos there ain't no leg in the middle o' the table, which all theothers has, and it's wery inconvenient.'

Mr. Pickwick observed his valet's directions implicitly, andbidding Sam follow him, entered the tavern he had pointed out,where the hot brandy-and-water was speedily placed before him;while Mr. Weller, seated at a respectful distance, though at thesame table with his master, was accommodated with a pint of porter.

The room was one of a very homely description, and wasapparently under the especial patronage of stage-coachmen; forseveral gentleman, who had all the appearance of belonging tothat learned profession, were drinking and smoking in thedifferent boxes. Among the number was one stout, red-faced,elderly man, in particular, seated in an opposite box, whoattracted Mr. Pickwick's attention. The stout man was smokingwith great vehemence, but between every half-dozen puffs, hetook his pipe from his mouth, and looked first at Mr. Weller andthen at Mr. Pickwick. Then, he would bury in a quart pot, asmuch of his countenance as the dimensions of the quart potadmitted of its receiving, and take another look at Sam andMr. Pickwick. Then he would take another half-dozen puffs withan air of profound meditation and look at them again. At last thestout man, putting up his legs on the seat, and leaning his backagainst the wall, began to puff at his pipe without leaving off atall, and to stare through the smoke at the new-comers, as if hehad made up his mind to see the most he could of them.

At first the evolutions of the stout man had escaped Mr.Weller's observation, but by degrees, as he saw Mr. Pickwick'seyes every now and then turning towards him, he began to gazein the same direction, at the same time shading his eyes with hishand, as if he partially recognised the object before him, andwished to make quite sure of its identity. His doubts werespeedily dispelled, however; for the stout man having blown athick cloud from his pipe, a hoarse voice, like some strange effortof ventriloquism, emerged from beneath the capacious shawlswhich muffled his throat and chest, and slowly uttered thesesounds--'Wy, Sammy!'

'Who's that, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Why, I wouldn't ha' believed it, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, withastonished eyes. 'It's the old 'un.'

'Old one,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'What old one?'

'My father, sir,' replied Mr. Weller. 'How are you, my ancient?'And with this beautiful ebullition of filial affection, Mr. Wellermade room on the seat beside him, for the stout man, whoadvanced pipe in mouth and pot in hand, to greet him.

'Wy, Sammy,' said the father, 'I ha'n't seen you, for two yearand better.'

'Nor more you have, old codger,' replied the son. 'How'smother-in-law?'

'Wy, I'll tell you what, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, senior, withmuch solemnity in his manner; 'there never was a nicer womanas a widder, than that 'ere second wentur o' mine--a sweetcreetur she was, Sammy; all I can say on her now, is, that as shewas such an uncommon pleasant widder, it's a great pity she everchanged her condition. She don't act as a vife, Sammy.''Don't she, though?' inquired Mr. Weller, junior.

The elder Mr. Weller shook his head, as he replied with a sigh,'I've done it once too often, Sammy; I've done it once too often.Take example by your father, my boy, and be wery careful o'widders all your life, 'specially if they've kept a public-house,Sammy.' Having delivered this parental advice with great pathos,Mr. Weller, senior, refilled his pipe from a tin box he carried inhis pocket; and, lighting his fresh pipe from the ashes of the oldOne, commenced smoking at a great rate.

'Beg your pardon, sir,' he said, renewing the subject, andaddressing Mr. Pickwick, after a considerable pause, 'nothin'personal, I hope, sir; I hope you ha'n't got a widder, sir.'

'Not I,' replied Mr. Pickwick, laughing; and while Mr. Pickwicklaughed, Sam Weller informed his parent in a whisper, ofthe relation in which he stood towards that gentleman.

'Beg your pardon, sir,' said Mr. Weller, senior, taking off hishat, 'I hope you've no fault to find with Sammy, Sir?'

'None whatever,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Wery glad to hear it, sir,' replied the old man; 'I took a gooddeal o' pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streetswhen he was wery young, and shift for hisself. It's the only wayto make a boy sharp, sir.'

'Rather a dangerous process, I should imagine,' said Mr.Pickwick, with a smile.

'And not a wery sure one, neither,' added Mr. Weller; 'I gotreg'larly done the other day.'

'No!' said his father.

'I did,' said the son; and he proceeded to relate, in as fewwords as possible, how he had fallen a ready dupe to the stratagemsof Job Trotter.

Mr. Weller, senior, listened to the tale with the most profoundattention, and, at its termination, said--

'Worn't one o' these chaps slim and tall, with long hair, andthe gift o' the gab wery gallopin'?'

Mr. Pickwick did not quite understand the last item of description,but, comprehending the first, said 'Yes,' at a venture.

'T' other's a black-haired chap in mulberry livery, with a werylarge head?'

'Yes, yes, he is,' said Mr. Pickwick and Sam, with great earnestness.'Then I know where they are, and that's all about it,' saidMr. Weller; 'they're at Ipswich, safe enough, them two.'

'No!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Fact,' said Mr. Weller, 'and I'll tell you how I know it. I workan Ipswich coach now and then for a friend o' mine. I workeddown the wery day arter the night as you caught the rheumatic,and at the Black Boy at Chelmsford--the wery place they'dcome to--I took 'em up, right through to Ipswich, where theman-servant--him in the mulberries--told me they was a-goin'to put up for a long time.'

'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'we may as well seeIpswich as any other place. I'll follow him.'

'You're quite certain it was them, governor?' inquired Mr.Weller, junior.

'Quite, Sammy, quite,' replied his father, 'for their appearanceis wery sing'ler; besides that 'ere, I wondered to see the gen'l'm'nso formiliar with his servant; and, more than that, as they sat inthe front, right behind the box, I heerd 'em laughing and sayinghow they'd done old Fireworks.'

'Old who?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Old Fireworks, Sir; by which, I've no doubt, they meant you, Sir.'There is nothing positively vile or atrocious in the appellationof 'old Fireworks,' but still it is by no means a respectful orflattering designation. The recollection of all the wrongs he hadsustained at Jingle's hands, had crowded on Mr. Pickwick'smind, the moment Mr. Weller began to speak; it wanted but afeather to turn the scale, and 'old Fireworks' did it.

'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow onthe table.

'I shall work down to Ipswich the day arter to-morrow, Sir,'said Mr. Weller the elder, 'from the Bull in Whitechapel; and ifyou really mean to go, you'd better go with me.'

'So we had,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'very true; I can write to Bury,and tell them to meet me at Ipswich. We will go with you. Butdon't hurry away, Mr. Weller; won't you take anything?'

'You're wery good, Sir,' replied Mr. W., stopping short;--'perhaps a small glass of brandy to drink your health, and successto Sammy, Sir, wouldn't be amiss.'

'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'A glass of brandyhere!' The brandy was brought; and Mr. Weller, after pulling hishair to Mr. Pickwick, and nodding to Sam, jerked it down hiscapacious throat as if it had been a small thimbleful.'Well done, father,' said Sam, 'take care, old fellow, or you'llhave a touch of your old complaint, the gout.'

'I've found a sov'rin' cure for that, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller,setting down the glass.

'A sovereign cure for the gout,' said Mr. Pickwick, hastilyproducing his note-book--'what is it?'

'The gout, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'the gout is a complaint asarises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you're attackedwith the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loudwoice, with a decent notion of usin' it, and you'll never have thegout agin. It's a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg'lar, and Ican warrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too muchjollity.' Having imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drainedhis glass once more, produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply,and slowly retired.

'Well, what do you think of what your father says, Sam?'inquired Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.

'Think, Sir!' replied Mr. Weller; 'why, I think he's the wictimo' connubiality, as Blue Beard's domestic chaplain said, vith atear of pity, ven he buried him.'

There was no replying to this very apposite conclusion, and,therefore, Mr. Pickwick, after settling the reckoning, resumed hiswalk to Gray's Inn. By the time he reached its secluded groves,however, eight o'clock had struck, and the unbroken stream ofgentlemen in muddy high-lows, soiled white hats, and rustyapparel, who were pouring towards the different avenues ofegress, warned him that the majority of the offices had closed forthat day.

After climbing two pairs of steep and dirty stairs, he found hisanticipations were realised. Mr. Perker's 'outer door' was closed;and the dead silence which followed Mr. Weller's repeated kicksthereat, announced that the officials had retired from business forthe night.

'This is pleasant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I shouldn't losean hour in seeing him; I shall not be able to get one winkof sleep to-night, I know, unless I have the satisfaction ofreflecting that I have confided this matter to a professional man.'

'Here's an old 'ooman comin' upstairs, sir,' replied Mr. Weller;'p'raps she knows where we can find somebody. Hollo, old lady,vere's Mr. Perker's people?'

'Mr. Perker's people,' said a thin, miserable-looking oldwoman, stopping to recover breath after the ascent of thestaircase--'Mr. Perker's people's gone, and I'm a-goin' todo the office out.''Are you Mr. Perker's servant?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'I am Mr. Perker's laundress,' replied the woman.

'Ah,' said Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Sam, 'it's a curiouscircumstance, Sam, that they call the old women in these inns,laundresses. I wonder what's that for?'

''Cos they has a mortal awersion to washing anythin', Isuppose, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'I shouldn't wonder,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at the oldwoman, whose appearance, as well as the condition of the office,which she had by this time opened, indicated a rooted antipathyto the application of soap and water; 'do you know where I canfind Mr. Perker, my good woman?'

'No, I don't,' replied the old woman gruffly; 'he's out o' town now.'

'That's unfortunate,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'where's his clerk?Do you know?'

'Yes, I know where he is, but he won't thank me for tellingyou,' replied the laundress.

'I have very particular business with him,' said Mr. Pickwick.'Won't it do in the morning?' said the woman.

'Not so well,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Well,' said the old woman, 'if it was anything very particular,I was to say where he was, so I suppose there's no harm intelling. If you just go to the Magpie and Stump, and ask at thebar for Mr. Lowten, they'll show you in to him, and he's Mr.Perker's clerk.'

With this direction, and having been furthermore informedthat the hostelry in question was situated in a court, happy in thedouble advantage of being in the vicinity of Clare Market, andclosely approximating to the back of New Inn, Mr. Pickwick andSam descended the rickety staircase in safety, and issued forth inquest of the Magpie and Stump.

This favoured tavern, sacred to the evening orgies of Mr.Lowten and his companions, was what ordinary people woulddesignate a public-house. That the landlord was a man of money-making turn was sufficiently testified by the fact of a small bulkheadbeneath the tap-room window, in size and shape not unlikea sedan-chair, being underlet to a mender of shoes: and that hewas a being of a philanthropic mind was evident from theprotection he afforded to a pieman, who vended his delicacieswithout fear of interruption, on the very door-step. In the lowerwindows, which were decorated with curtains of a saffron hue,dangled two or three printed cards, bearing reference to Devonshirecider and Dantzic spruce, while a large blackboard,announcing in white letters to an enlightened public, that therewere 500,000 barrels of double stout in the cellars of the establishment,left the mind in a state of not unpleasing doubt anduncertainty as to the precise direction in the bowels of the earth, inwhich this mighty cavern might be supposed to extend. When weadd that the weather-beaten signboard bore the half-obliteratedsemblance of a magpie intently eyeing a crooked streak of brownpaint, which the neighbours had been taught from infancy toconsider as the 'stump,' we have said all that need be said of theexterior of the edifice.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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