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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 50)


In the contemplative mood which these words had awakened,Mr. Samuel Weller walked forth from the Great White Horsewhen his father had left him; and bending his steps towards St.Clement's Church, endeavoured to dissipate his melancholy, bystrolling among its ancient precincts. He had loitered about, forsome time, when he found himself in a retired spot--a kind ofcourtyard of venerable appearance--which he discovered had noother outlet than the turning by which he had entered. He wasabout retracing his steps, when he was suddenly transfixed to thespot by a sudden appearance; and the mode and manner of thisappearance, we now proceed to relate.

Mr. Samuel Weller had been staring up at the old brick housesnow and then, in his deep abstraction, bestowing a wink uponsome healthy-looking servant girl as she drew up a blind, orthrew open a bedroom window, when the green gate of a gardenat the bottom of the yard opened, and a man having emergedtherefrom, closed the green gate very carefully after him, andwalked briskly towards the very spot where Mr. Weller was standing.

Now, taking this, as an isolated fact, unaccompanied by anyattendant circumstances, there was nothing very extraordinary init; because in many parts of the world men do come out ofgardens, close green gates after them, and even walk brisklyaway, without attracting any particular share of public observation.It is clear, therefore, that there must have been something inthe man, or in his manner, or both, to attract Mr. Weller'sparticular notice. Whether there was, or not, we must leave thereader to determine, when we have faithfully recorded thebehaviour of the individual in question.

When the man had shut the green gate after him, he walked,as we have said twice already, with a brisk pace up the courtyard;but he no sooner caught sight of Mr. Weller than he faltered, andstopped, as if uncertain, for the moment, what course to adopt.As the green gate was closed behind him, and there was no otheroutlet but the one in front, however, he was not long in perceivingthat he must pass Mr. Samuel Weller to get away. He thereforeresumed his brisk pace, and advanced, staring straight beforehim. The most extraordinary thing about the man was, that hewas contorting his face into the most fearful and astonishinggrimaces that ever were beheld. Nature's handiwork never wasdisguised with such extraordinary artificial carving, as the manhad overlaid his countenance with in one moment.

'Well!' said Mr. Weller to himself, as the man approached.'This is wery odd. I could ha' swore it was him.'

Up came the man, and his face became more frightfullydistorted than ever, as he drew nearer.

'I could take my oath to that 'ere black hair and mulberry suit,'said Mr. Weller; 'only I never see such a face as that afore.'

As Mr. Weller said this, the man's features assumed anunearthly twinge, perfectly hideous. He was obliged to pass verynear Sam, however, and the scrutinising glance of that gentlemanenabled him to detect, under all these appalling twists of feature,something too like the small eyes of Mr. Job Trotter to beeasily mistaken.

'Hollo, you Sir!' shouted Sam fiercely.

The stranger stopped.

'Hollo!' repeated Sam, still more gruffly.

The man with the horrible face looked, with the greatestsurprise, up the court, and down the court, and in at the windowsof the houses--everywhere but at Sam Weller--and took anotherstep forward, when he was brought to again by another shout.

'Hollo, you sir!' said Sam, for the third time.

There was no pretending to mistake where the voice camefrom now, so the stranger, having no other resource, at lastlooked Sam Weller full in the face.

'It won't do, Job Trotter,' said Sam. 'Come! None o' that 'erenonsense. You ain't so wery 'andsome that you can afford tothrow avay many o' your good looks. Bring them 'ere eyes o'yourn back into their proper places, or I'll knock 'em out ofyour head. D'ye hear?'

As Mr. Weller appeared fully disposed to act up to the spirit ofthis address, Mr. Trotter gradually allowed his face to resume itsnatural expression; and then giving a start of joy, exclaimed,'What do I see? Mr. Walker!'

'Ah,' replied Sam. 'You're wery glad to see me, ain't you?'

'Glad!' exclaimed Job Trotter; 'oh, Mr. Walker, if you had butknown how I have looked forward to this meeting! It is toomuch, Mr. Walker; I cannot bear it, indeed I cannot.' And withthese words, Mr. Trotter burst into a regular inundation of tears,and, flinging his arms around those of Mr. Weller, embraced himclosely, in an ecstasy of joy.

'Get off!' cried Sam, indignant at this process, and vainlyendeavouring to extricate himself from the grasp of hisenthusiastic acquaintance. 'Get off, I tell you. What are you cryingover me for, you portable engine?'

'Because I am so glad to see you,' replied Job Trotter, graduallyreleasing Mr. Weller, as the first symptoms of his pugnacitydisappeared. 'Oh, Mr. Walker, this is too much.'

'Too much!' echoed Sam, 'I think it is too much--rayther!Now, what have you got to say to me, eh?'

Mr. Trotter made no reply; for the little pink pocket-handkerchiefwas in full force.

'What have you got to say to me, afore I knock your head off?'repeated Mr. Weller, in a threatening manner.

'Eh!' said Mr. Trotter, with a look of virtuous surprise.

'What have you got to say to me?'

'I, Mr. Walker!'

'Don't call me Valker; my name's Veller; you know that vellenough. What have you got to say to me?'

'Bless you, Mr. Walker--Weller, I mean--a great many things,if you will come away somewhere, where we can talk comfortably.If you knew how I have looked for you, Mr. Weller--'

'Wery hard, indeed, I s'pose?' said Sam drily.

'Very, very, Sir,' replied Mr. Trotter, without moving a muscleof his face. 'But shake hands, Mr. Weller.'

Sam eyed his companion for a few seconds, and then, as ifactuated by a sudden impulse, complied with his request.'How,' said Job Trotter, as they walked away, 'how is yourdear, good master? Oh, he is a worthy gentleman, Mr. Weller!I hope he didn't catch cold, that dreadful night, Sir.'

There was a momentary look of deep slyness in Job Trotter'seye, as he said this, which ran a thrill through Mr. Weller'sclenched fist, as he burned with a desire to make a demonstrationon his ribs. Sam constrained himself, however, and replied thathis master was extremely well.

'Oh, I am so glad,' replied Mr. Trotter; 'is he here?'

'Is yourn?' asked Sam, by way of reply.

'Oh, yes, he is here, and I grieve to say, Mr. Weller, he is goingon worse than ever.'

'Ah, ah!' said Sam.

'Oh, shocking--terrible!'

'At a boarding-school?' said Sam.

'No, not at a boarding-school,' replied Job Trotter, with thesame sly look which Sam had noticed before; 'not at aboarding-school.'

'At the house with the green gate?' said Sam, eyeing hiscompanion closely.

'No, no--oh, not there,' replied Job, with a quickness veryunusual to him, 'not there.'

'What was you a-doin' there?' asked Sam, with a sharp glance.'Got inside the gate by accident, perhaps?'

'Why, Mr. Weller,' replied Job, 'I don't mind telling you mylittle secrets, because, you know, we took such a fancy for eachother when we first met. You recollect how pleasant we werethat morning?'

'Oh, yes,' said Sam, impatiently. 'I remember. Well?'

'Well,' replied Job, speaking with great precision, and in thelow tone of a man who communicates an important secret; 'inthat house with the green gate, Mr. Weller, they keep a goodmany servants.'

'So I should think, from the look on it,' interposed Sam.

'Yes,' continued Mr. Trotter, 'and one of them is a cook, whohas saved up a little money, Mr. Weller, and is desirous, if shecan establish herself in life, to open a little shop in the chandleryway, you see.''Yes.'

'Yes, Mr. Weller. Well, Sir, I met her at a chapel that I go to; avery neat little chapel in this town, Mr. Weller, where they singthe number four collection of hymns, which I generally carryabout with me, in a little book, which you may perhaps have seenin my hand--and I got a little intimate with her, Mr. Weller, andfrom that, an acquaintance sprung up between us, and I mayventure to say, Mr. Weller, that I am to be the chandler.'

'Ah, and a wery amiable chandler you'll make,' replied Sam,eyeing Job with a side look of intense dislike.

'The great advantage of this, Mr. Weller,' continued Job, hiseyes filling with tears as he spoke, 'will be, that I shall be able toleave my present disgraceful service with that bad man, and todevote myself to a better and more virtuous life; more like theway in which I was brought up, Mr. Weller.'

'You must ha' been wery nicely brought up,' said Sam.

'Oh, very, Mr. Weller, very,' replied Job. At the recollectionof the purity of his youthful days, Mr. Trotter pulled forth thepink handkerchief, and wept copiously.

'You must ha' been an uncommon nice boy, to go to schoolvith,' said Sam.

'I was, sir,' replied Job, heaving a deep sigh; 'I was the idol ofthe place.'

'Ah,' said Sam, 'I don't wonder at it. What a comfort youmust ha' been to your blessed mother.'

At these words, Mr. Job Trotter inserted an end of the pinkhandkerchief into the corner of each eye, one after the other, andbegan to weep copiously.

'Wot's the matter with the man,' said Sam, indignantly.'Chelsea water-works is nothin' to you. What are you meltingvith now? The consciousness o' willainy?'

'I cannot keep my feelings down, Mr. Weller,' said Job, after ashort pause. 'To think that my master should have suspected theconversation I had with yours, and so dragged me away in apost-chaise, and after persuading the sweet young lady to say sheknew nothing of him, and bribing the school-mistress to do thesame, deserted her for a better speculation! Oh! Mr. Weller, itmakes me shudder.'

'Oh, that was the vay, was it?' said Mr. Weller.

'To be sure it was,' replied Job.

'Vell,' said Sam, as they had now arrived near the hotel, 'I vantto have a little bit o' talk with you, Job; so if you're not particklerengaged, I should like to see you at the Great White Horse to-night, somewheres about eight o'clock.'

'I shall be sure to come,' said Job.

'Yes, you'd better,' replied Sam, with a very meaning look, 'orelse I shall perhaps be askin' arter you, at the other side of thegreen gate, and then I might cut you out, you know.'

'I shall be sure to be with you, sir,' said Mr. Trotter;and wringing Sam's hand with the utmost fervour, he walked away.

'Take care, Job Trotter, take care,' said Sam, looking afterhim, 'or I shall be one too many for you this time. I shall,indeed.' Having uttered this soliloquy, and looked after Job tillhe was to be seen no more, Mr. Weller made the best of his wayto his master's bedroom.

'It's all in training, Sir,' said Sam.

'What's in training, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'I've found 'em out, Sir,' said Sam.

'Found out who?'

'That 'ere queer customer, and the melan-cholly chap with theblack hair.'

'Impossible, Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, with the greatest energy.'Where are they, Sam: where are they?'

'Hush, hush!' replied Mr. Weller; and as he assisted Mr.Pickwick to dress, he detailed the plan of action on which heproposed to enter.

'But when is this to be done, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'All in good time, Sir,' replied Sam.

Whether it was done in good time, or not, will be seen hereafter.

CHAPTER XXIVWHEREIN Mr. PETER MAGNUS GROWS JEALOUS, AND THEMIDDLE-AGED LADY APPREHENSIVE, WHICH BRINGS THEPICKWICKIANS WITHIN THE GRASP OF THE LAW

When Mr. Pickwick descended to the room in which he and Mr. PeterMagnus had spent the preceding evening, he found that gentleman withthe major part of the contents of the two bags, the leathern hat-box,and the brown-paper parcel, displaying to all possible advantageon his person, while he himself was pacing up and down the room ina state of the utmost excitement and agitation.

'Good-morning, Sir,' said Mr. Peter Magnus. 'What do youthink of this, Sir?'

'Very effective indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying thegarments of Mr. Peter Magnus with a good-natured smile.

'Yes, I think it'll do,' said Mr. Magnus. 'Mr. Pickwick, Sir, Ihave sent up my card.'

'Have you?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'And the waiter brought back word, that she would see me ateleven--at eleven, Sir; it only wants a quarter now.'

'Very near the time,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Yes, it is rather near,' replied Mr. Magnus, 'rather too near tobe pleasant--eh! Mr. Pickwick, sir?'

'Confidence is a great thing in these cases,' observed Mr. Pickwick.

'I believe it is, Sir,' said Mr. Peter Magnus. 'I am very confident,Sir. Really, Mr. Pickwick, I do not see why a man shouldfeel any fear in such a case as this, sir. What is it, Sir? There'snothing to be ashamed of; it's a matter of mutual accommodation,nothing more. Husband on one side, wife on the other. That'smy view of the matter, Mr. Pickwick.'

'It is a very philosophical one,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Butbreakfast is waiting, Mr. Magnus. Come.'

Down they sat to breakfast, but it was evident, notwithstandingthe boasting of Mr. Peter Magnus, that he labouredunder a very considerable degree of nervousness, of which loss ofappetite, a propensity to upset the tea-things, a spectral attemptat drollery, and an irresistible inclination to look at the clock,every other second, were among the principal symptoms.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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