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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 52)


'Muzzle!' said the magistrate.

Muzzle was an undersized footman, with a long body andshort legs.

'Muzzle!''Yes, your Worship.'

'Place a chair, and leave the room.'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Now, ma'am, will you state your business?' said the magistrate.

'It is of a very painful kind, Sir,' said Miss Witherfield.

'Very likely, ma'am,' said the magistrate. 'Compose yourfeelings, ma'am.' Here Mr. Nupkins looked benignant. 'Andthen tell me what legal business brings you here, ma'am.' Herethe magistrate triumphed over the man; and he looked stern again.

'It is very distressing to me, Sir, to give this information,' saidMiss Witherfield, 'but I fear a duel is going to be fought here.'

'Here, ma'am?' said the magistrate. 'Where, ma'am?'

'In Ipswich.''In Ipswich, ma'am! A duel in Ipswich!' said the magistrate,perfectly aghast at the notion. 'Impossible, ma'am; nothing of thekind can be contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Blessmy soul, ma'am, are you aware of the activity of our localmagistracy? Do you happen to have heard, ma'am, that Irushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May last, attended byonly sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of falling asacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude,prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling andthe Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, ma'am? I don't think--I do not think,' said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, 'thatany two men can have had the hardihood to plan such a breachof the peace, in this town.'

'My information is, unfortunately, but too correct,' said themiddle-aged lady; 'I was present at the quarrel.'

'It's a most extraordinary thing,' said the astounded magistrate.'Muzzle!'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly.'

'Yes, your Worship.'

Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily-clad clerk, of middle age, entered the room.

'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate. 'Mr. Jinks.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Jinks.'This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of anintended duel in this town.'

Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled adependent's smile.

'What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate.

Mr. Jinks looked serious instantly.

'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, 'you're a fool.'

Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top ofhis pen.

'You may see something very comical in this information, Sir--but I can tell you this, Mr. Jinks, that you have very little tolaugh at,' said the magistrate.

The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware ofthe fact of his having very little indeed to be merry about; and,being ordered to take the lady's information, shambled to a seat,and proceeded to write it down.

'This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand?' said themagistrate, when the statement was finished.

'He is,' said the middle-aged lady.

'And the other rioter--what's his name, Mr. Jinks?'

'Tupman, Sir.''Tupman is the second?'

'Yes.'

'The other principal, you say, has absconded, ma'am?'

'Yes,' replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough.

'Very well,' said the magistrate. 'These are two cut-throats fromLondon, who have come down here to destroy his Majesty'spopulation, thinking that at this distance from the capital, thearm of the law is weak and paralysed. They shall be made anexample of. Draw up the warrants, Mr. Jinks. Muzzle!'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Is Grummer downstairs?'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Send him up.'The obsequious Muzzle retired, and presently returned,introducing the elderly gentleman in the top-boots, who waschiefly remarkable for a bottle-nose, a hoarse voice, a snuff-coloured surtout, and a wandering eye.

'Grummer,' said the magistrate.

'Your Wash-up.'

'Is the town quiet now?'

'Pretty well, your Wash-up,' replied Grummer. 'Pop'lar feelinghas in a measure subsided, consekens o' the boys havingdispersed to cricket.'

'Nothing but vigorous measures will do in these times,Grummer,' said the magistrate, in a determined manner. 'if theauthority of the king's officers is set at naught, we must have theriot act read. If the civil power cannot protect these windows,Grummer, the military must protect the civil power, and thewindows too. I believe that is a maxim of the constitution,Mr. Jinks?''Certainly, sir,' said Jinks.

'Very good,' said the magistrate, signing the warrants.'Grummer, you will bring these persons before me, this afternoon.You will find them at the Great White Horse. You recollect thecase of the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam, Grummer?'

Mr. Grummer intimated, by a retrospective shake of the head,that he should never forget it--as indeed it was not likely hewould, so long as it continued to be cited daily.

'This is even more unconstitutional,' said the magistrate; 'thisis even a greater breach of the peace, and a grosser infringementof his Majesty's prerogative. I believe duelling is one of hisMajesty's most undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks?'

'Expressly stipulated in Magna Charta, sir,' said Mr. Jinks.

'One of the brightest jewels in the British crown, wrung fromhis Majesty by the barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks?' said themagistrate.

'Just so, Sir,' replied Mr. Jinks.

'Very well,' said the magistrate, drawing himself up proudly,'it shall not be violated in this portion of his dominions. Grummer,procure assistance, and execute these warrants with as littledelay as possible. Muzzle!'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Show the lady out.'

Miss Witherfield retired, deeply impressed with the magistrate'slearning and research; Mr. Nupkins retired to lunch;Mr. Jinks retired within himself--that being the only retirementhe had, except the sofa-bedstead in the small parlour which wasoccupied by his landlady's family in the daytime--and Mr.Grummer retired, to wipe out, by his mode of discharging hispresent commission, the insult which had been fastened uponhimself, and the other representative of his Majesty--the beadle--in the course of the morning.

While these resolute and determined preparations for theconservation of the king's peace were pending, Mr. Pickwick andhis friends, wholly unconscious of the mighty events in progress,had sat quietly down to dinner; and very talkative andcompanionable they all were. Mr. Pickwick was in the very act ofrelating his adventure of the preceding night, to the great amusementof his followers, Mr. Tupman especially, when the dooropened, and a somewhat forbidding countenance peeped into theroom. The eyes in the forbidding countenance looked veryearnestly at Mr. Pickwick, for several seconds, and were to allappearance satisfied with their investigation; for the body towhich the forbidding countenance belonged, slowly broughtitself into the apartment, and presented the form of an elderlyindividual in top-boots--not to keep the reader any longerin suspense, in short, the eyes were the wandering eyes ofMr. Grummer, and the body was the body of the same gentleman.

Mr. Grummer's mode of proceeding was professional, butpeculiar. His first act was to bolt the door on the inside; hissecond, to polish his head and countenance very carefully with acotton handkerchief; his third, to place his hat, with the cottonhandkerchief in it, on the nearest chair; and his fourth, toproduce from the breast-pocket of his coat a short truncheon,surmounted by a brazen crown, with which he beckoned toMr. Pickwick with a grave and ghost-like air.

Mr. Snodgrass was the first to break the astonished silence.He looked steadily at Mr. Grummer for a brief space, and thensaid emphatically, 'This is a private room, Sir. A private room.'

Mr. Grummer shook his head, and replied, 'No room's privateto his Majesty when the street door's once passed. That's law.Some people maintains that an Englishman's house is his castle.That's gammon.'

The Pickwickians gazed on each other with wondering eyes.

'Which is Mr. Tupman?' inquired Mr. Grummer. He had anintuitive perception of Mr. Pickwick; he knew him at once.

'My name's Tupman,' said that gentleman.

'My name's Law,' said Mr. Grummer.

'What?' said Mr. Tupman.

'Law,' replied Mr. Grummer--'Law, civil power, and exekative;them's my titles; here's my authority. Blank Tupman, blankPickwick--against the peace of our sufferin' lord the king--stattit in the case made and purwided--and all regular. I apprehendyou Pickwick! Tupman--the aforesaid.'

'What do you mean by this insolence?' said Mr. Tupman,starting up; 'leave the room!'

'Hollo,' said Mr. Grummer, retreating very expeditiously tothe door, and opening it an inch or two, 'Dubbley.'

'Well,' said a deep voice from the passage.

'Come for'ard, Dubbley.'

At the word of command, a dirty-faced man, something oversix feet high, and stout in proportion, squeezed himself throughthe half-open door (making his face very red in the process), andentered the room.

'Is the other specials outside, Dubbley?' inquired Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley, who was a man of few words, nodded assent.

'Order in the diwision under your charge, Dubbley,' saidMr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley did as he was desired; and half a dozen men, eachwith a short truncheon and a brass crown, flocked into the room.Mr. Grummer pocketed his staff, and looked at Mr. Dubbley;Mr. Dubbley pocketed his staff and looked at the division; thedivision pocketed their staves and looked at Messrs. Tupmanand Pickwick.

Mr. Pickwick and his followers rose as one man.

'What is the meaning of this atrocious intrusion upon myprivacy?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Who dares apprehend me?' said Mr. Tupman.

'What do you want here, scoundrels?' said Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Winkle said nothing, but he fixed his eyes on Grummer,and bestowed a look upon him, which, if he had had any feeling,must have pierced his brain. As it was, however, it had no visibleeffect on him whatever.

When the executive perceived that Mr. Pickwick and hisfriends were disposed to resist the authority of the law, they verysignificantly turned up their coat sleeves, as if knocking themdown in the first instance, and taking them up afterwards, were amere professional act which had only to be thought of to be done,as a matter of course. This demonstration was not lost uponMr. Pickwick. He conferred a few moments with Mr. Tupmanapart, and then signified his readiness to proceed to the mayor'sresidence, merely begging the parties then and there assembled,to take notice, that it was his firm intention to resent this monstrousinvasion of his privileges as an Englishman, the instant hewas at liberty; whereat the parties then and there assembledlaughed very heartily, with the single exception of Mr. Grummer,who seemed to consider that any slight cast upon the divineright of magistrates was a species of blasphemy not to be tolerated.

But when Mr. Pickwick had signified his readiness to bow tothe laws of his country, and just when the waiters, and hostlers,and chambermaids, and post-boys, who had anticipated adelightful commotion from his threatened obstinacy, began toturn away, disappointed and disgusted, a difficulty arose whichhad not been foreseen. With every sentiment of veneration for theconstituted authorities, Mr. Pickwick resolutely protested againstmaking his appearance in the public streets, surrounded andguarded by the officers of justice, like a common criminal.Mr. Grummer, in the then disturbed state of public feeling (forit was half-holiday, and the boys had not yet gone home), asresolutely protested against walking on the opposite side of theway, and taking Mr. Pickwick's parole that he would go straightto the magistrate's; and both Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman asstrenuously objected to the expense of a post-coach, which wasthe only respectable conveyance that could be obtained. Thedispute ran high, and the dilemma lasted long; and just as theexecutive were on the point of overcoming Mr. Pickwick'sobjection to walking to the magistrate's, by the trite expedient ofcarrying him thither, it was recollected that there stood in the innyard, an old sedan-chair, which, having been originally built fora gouty gentleman with funded property, would hold Mr. Pickwickand Mr. Tupman, at least as conveniently as a modern post-chaise. The chair was hired, and brought into the hall; Mr. Pickwickand Mr. Tupman squeezed themselves inside, and pulleddown the blinds; a couple of chairmen were speedily found; andthe procession started in grand order. The specials surroundedthe body of the vehicle; Mr. Grummer and Mr. Dubbley marchedtriumphantly in front; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle walkedarm-in-arm behind; and the unsoaped of Ipswich brought upthe rear.

The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a veryindistinct notion of the nature of the offence, could not but bemuch edified and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strongarm of the law, coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upontwo offenders from the metropolis itself; the mighty engine wasdirected by their own magistrate, and worked by their ownofficers; and both the criminals, by their united efforts, weresecurely shut up, in the narrow compass of one sedan-chair.Many were the expressions of approval and admiration whichgreeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand;loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidstthese united testimonials of public approbation, the processionmoved slowly and majestically along.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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