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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 54)


'I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting you,' said Mr. Pickwick;'but before you proceed to express, and act upon, anyopinion you may have formed on the statements which have beenmade here, I must claim my right to be heard so far as I ampersonally concerned.'

'Hold your tongue, Sir,' said the magistrate peremptorily.

'I must submit to you, Sir--' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Hold your tongue, sir,' interposed the magistrate, 'or I shallorder an officer to remove you.'

'You may order your officers to do whatever you please, Sir,'said Mr. Pickwick; 'and I have no doubt, from the specimen Ihave had of the subordination preserved amongst them, thatwhatever you order, they will execute, Sir; but I shall take theliberty, Sir, of claiming my right to be heard, until I am removedby force.'

'Pickvick and principle!' exclaimed Mr. Weller, in a veryaudible voice.

'Sam, be quiet,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Dumb as a drum vith a hole in it, Sir,' replied Sam.

Mr. Nupkins looked at Mr. Pickwick with a gaze of intenseastonishment, at his displaying such unwonted temerity; and wasapparently about to return a very angry reply, when Mr. Jinkspulled him by the sleeve, and whispered something in his ear. Tothis, the magistrate returned a half-audible answer, and then thewhispering was renewed. Jinks was evidently remonstrating.At length the magistrate, gulping down, with a very bad grace,his disinclination to hear anything more, turned to Mr. Pickwick,and said sharply, 'What do you want to say?'

'First,' said Mr. Pickwick, sending a look through his spectacles,under which even Nupkins quailed, 'first, I wish to knowwhat I and my friend have been brought here for?'

'Must I tell him?' whispered the magistrate to Jinks.

'I think you had better, sir,' whispered Jinks to the magistrate.'An information has been sworn before me,' said the magistrate,'that it is apprehended you are going to fight a duel, andthat the other man, Tupman, is your aider and abettor in it.Therefore--eh, Mr. Jinks?'

'Certainly, sir.'

'Therefore, I call upon you both, to--I think that's the course,Mr. Jinks?'

'Certainly, Sir.'

'To--to--what, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate pettishly.

'To find bail, sir.'

'Yes. Therefore, I call upon you both--as I was about to saywhen I was interrupted by my clerk--to find bail.''Good bail,' whispered Mr. Jinks.

'I shall require good bail,' said the magistrate.

'Town's-people,' whispered Jinks.

'They must be townspeople,' said the magistrate.

'Fifty pounds each,' whispered Jinks, 'and householders, of course.'

'I shall require two sureties of fifty pounds each,' said themagistrate aloud, with great dignity, 'and they must be householders,of course.'

'But bless my heart, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, who, together withMr. Tupman, was all amazement and indignation; 'we areperfect strangers in this town. I have as little knowledge of anyhouseholders here, as I have intention of fighting a duel with anybody.'

'I dare say,' replied the magistrate, 'I dare say--don't you,Mr. Jinks?'

'Certainly, Sir.'

'Have you anything more to say?' inquired the magistrate.

Mr. Pickwick had a great deal more to say, which he would nodoubt have said, very little to his own advantage, or the magistrate'ssatisfaction, if he had not, the moment he ceased speaking,been pulled by the sleeve by Mr. Weller, with whom he wasimmediately engaged in so earnest a conversation, that hesuffered the magistrate's inquiry to pass wholly unnoticed. Mr.Nupkins was not the man to ask a question of the kind twiceover; and so, with another preparatory cough, he proceeded,amidst the reverential and admiring silence of the constables, topronounce his decision.He should fine Weller two pounds for the first assault, andthree pounds for the second. He should fine Winkle two pounds,and Snodgrass one pound, besides requiring them to enter intotheir own recognisances to keep the peace towards all hisMajesty's subjects, and especially towards his liege servant,Daniel Grummer. Pickwick and Tupman he had already heldto bail.

Immediately on the magistrate ceasing to speak, Mr. Pickwick,with a smile mantling on his again good-humoured countenance,stepped forward, and said--

'I beg the magistrate's pardon, but may I request a few minutes'private conversation with him, on a matter of deep importanceto himself?'

'What?' said the magistrate.Mr. Pickwick repeated his request.

'This is a most extraordinary request,' said the magistrate.'A private interview?'

'A private interview,' replied Mr. Pickwick firmly; 'only, as apart of the information which I wish to communicate is derivedfrom my servant, I should wish him to be present.'

The magistrate looked at Mr. Jinks; Mr. Jinks looked at themagistrate; the officers looked at each other in amazement.Mr. Nupkins turned suddenly pale. Could the man Weller, in amoment of remorse, have divulged some secret conspiracy for hisassassination? It was a dreadful thought. He was a public man;and he turned paler, as he thought of Julius Caesar and Mr. Perceval.

The magistrate looked at Mr. Pickwick again, and beckonedMr. Jinks.

'What do you think of this request, Mr. Jinks?' murmuredMr. Nupkins.

Mr. Jinks, who didn't exactly know what to think of it, andwas afraid he might offend, smiled feebly, after a dubiousfashion, and, screwing up the corners of his mouth, shook hishead slowly from side to side.

'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate gravely, 'you are an ass.'

At this little expression of opinion, Mr. Jinks smiled again--rather more feebly than before--and edged himself, by degrees,back into his own corner.

Mr. Nupkins debated the matter within himself for a fewseconds, and then, rising from his chair, and requesting Mr.Pickwick and Sam to follow him, led the way into a small roomwhich opened into the justice-parlour. Desiring Mr. Pickwick towalk to the upper end of the little apartment, and holding hishand upon the half-closed door, that he might be able to effectan immediate escape, in case there was the least tendency to adisplay of hostilities, Mr. Nupkins expressed his readiness to hearthe communication, whatever it might be.

'I will come to the point at once, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'itaffects yourself and your credit materially. I have every reason tobelieve, Sir, that you are harbouring in your house a gross impostor!'

'Two,' interrupted Sam. 'Mulberry agin all natur, for tearsand willainny!'

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'if I am to render myself intelligibleto this gentleman, I must beg you to control your feelings.'

'Wery sorry, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'but when I think o' that'ere Job, I can't help opening the walve a inch or two.'

'In one word, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is my servant right insuspecting that a certain Captain Fitz-Marshall is in the habit ofvisiting here? Because,' added Mr. Pickwick, as he saw thatMr. Nupkins was about to offer a very indignant interruption,'because if he be, I know that person to be a--'

'Hush, hush,' said Mr. Nupkins, closing the door. 'Know himto be what, Sir?'

'An unprincipled adventurer--a dishonourable character--aman who preys upon society, and makes easily-deceived peoplehis dupes, Sir; his absurd, his foolish, his wretched dupes, Sir,'said the excited Mr. Pickwick.

'Dear me,' said Mr. Nupkins, turning very red, and altering hiswhole manner directly. 'Dear me, Mr.--'

'Pickvick,' said Sam.

'Pickwick,' said the magistrate, 'dear me, Mr. Pickwick--praytake a seat--you cannot mean this? Captain Fitz-Marshall!'

'Don't call him a cap'en,' said Sam, 'nor Fitz-Marshallneither; he ain't neither one nor t'other. He's a strolling actor, heis, and his name's Jingle; and if ever there was a wolf in amulberry suit, that 'ere Job Trotter's him.'

'It is very true, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, replying to the magistrate'slook of amazement; 'my only business in this town, is toexpose the person of whom we now speak.'

Mr. Pickwick proceeded to pour into the horror-stricken ear ofMr. Nupkins, an abridged account of all Mr. Jingle's atrocities.He related how he had first met him; how he had eloped withMiss Wardle; how he had cheerfully resigned the lady for apecuniary consideration; how he had entrapped himself into alady's boarding-school at midnight; and how he (Mr. Pickwick)now felt it his duty to expose his assumption of his present nameand rank.

As the narrative proceeded, all the warm blood in the body ofMr. Nupkins tingled up into the very tips of his ears. He hadpicked up the captain at a neighbouring race-course. Charmedwith his long list of aristocratic acquaintance, his extensivetravel, and his fashionable demeanour, Mrs. Nupkins and MissNupkins had exhibited Captain Fitz-Marshall, and quotedCaptain Fitz-Marshall, and hurled Captain Fitz-Marshall at thedevoted heads of their select circle of acquaintance, until theirbosom friends, Mrs. Porkenham and the Misses Porkenhams,and Mr. Sidney Porkenham, were ready to burst with jealousyand despair. And now, to hear, after all, that he was a needyadventurer, a strolling player, and if not a swindler, something sovery like it, that it was hard to tell the difference! Heavens! whatwould the Porkenhams say! What would be the triumph ofMr. Sidney Porkenham when he found that his addresses hadbeen slighted for such a rival! How should he, Nupkins, meet theeye of old Porkenham at the next quarter-sessions! And what ahandle would it be for the opposition magisterial party if thestory got abroad!

'But after all,' said Mr. Nupkins, brightening for a moment,after a long pause; 'after all, this is a mere statement. CaptainFitz-Marshall is a man of very engaging manners, and, I daresay, has many enemies. What proof have you of the truth ofthese representations?'

'Confront me with him,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that is all I ask,and all I require. Confront him with me and my friends here; youwill want no further proof.'

'Why,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'that might be very easily done, forhe will be here to-night, and then there would be no occasion tomake the matter public, just--just--for the young man's ownsake, you know. I--I--should like to consult Mrs. Nupkins onthe propriety of the step, in the first instance, though. Atall events, Mr. Pickwick, we must despatch this legal businessbefore we can do anything else. Pray step back into the nextroom.'

Into the next room they went.

'Grummer,' said the magistrate, in an awful voice.

'Your Wash-up,' replied Grummer, with the smile of a favourite.

'Come, come, Sir,' said the magistrate sternly, 'don't let me seeany of this levity here. It is very unbecoming, and I can assureyou that you have very little to smile at. Was the account yougave me just now strictly true? Now be careful, sir!''Your Wash-up,' stammered Grummer, 'I-'

'Oh, you are confused, are you?' said the magistrate. 'Mr.Jinks, you observe this confusion?'

'Certainly, Sir,' replied Jinks.

'Now,' said the magistrate, 'repeat your statement, Grummer,and again I warn you to be careful. Mr. Jinks, take his words down.'

The unfortunate Grummer proceeded to re-state his complaint,but, what between Mr. Jinks's taking down his words, and themagistrate's taking them up, his natural tendency to rambling,and his extreme confusion, he managed to get involved, in somethingunder three minutes, in such a mass of entanglement andcontradiction, that Mr. Nupkins at once declared he didn'tbelieve him. So the fines were remitted, and Mr. Jinks found acouple of bail in no time. And all these solemn proceedingshaving been satisfactorily concluded, Mr. Grummer wasignominiously ordered out--an awful instance of the instabilityof human greatness, and the uncertain tenure of great men's favour.

Mrs. Nupkins was a majestic female in a pink gauze turbanand a light brown wig. Miss Nupkins possessed all her mamma'shaughtiness without the turban, and all her ill-nature without thewig; and whenever the exercise of these two amiable qualitiesinvolved mother and daughter in some unpleasant dilemma, asthey not infrequently did, they both concurred in laying theblame on the shoulders of Mr. Nupkins. Accordingly, whenMr. Nupkins sought Mrs. Nupkins, and detailed the communicationwhich had been made by Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Nupkinssuddenly recollected that she had always expected something ofthe kind; that she had always said it would be so; that her advicewas never taken; that she really did not know what Mr. Nupkinssupposed she was; and so forth.

'The idea!' said Miss Nupkins, forcing a tear of very scantyproportions into the corner of each eye; 'the idea of my beingmade such a fool of!'

'Ah! you may thank your papa, my dear,' said Mrs. Nupkins;'how I have implored and begged that man to inquire into thecaptain's family connections; how I have urged and entreatedhim to take some decisive step! I am quite certain nobody wouldbelieve it--quite.'

'But, my dear,' said Mr. Nupkins.

'Don't talk to me, you aggravating thing, don't!' said Mrs. Nupkins.

'My love,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'you professed yourself very fondof Captain Fitz-Marshall. You have constantly asked him here, mydear, and you have lost no opportunity of introducing him elsewhere.'

'Didn't I say so, Henrietta?' cried Mrs. Nupkins, appealing toher daughter with the air of a much-injured female. 'Didn't I saythat your papa would turn round and lay all this at my door?Didn't I say so?' Here Mrs. Nupkins sobbed.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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