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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 57)


'And your master, young man! A gentleman with money, ascould never feel the expense of a wife, no more than nothing,'continued Mrs. Cluppins, with great volubility; 'why there ain'tthe faintest shade of an excuse for his behaviour! Why don't hemarry her?'

'Ah,' said Sam, 'to be sure; that's the question.'

'Question, indeed,' retorted Mrs. Cluppins, 'she'd questionhim, if she'd my spirit. Hows'ever, there is law for us women,mis'rable creeturs as they'd make us, if they could; and that yourmaster will find out, young man, to his cost, afore he's sixmonths older.'

At this consolatory reflection, Mrs. Cluppins bridled up, andsmiled at Mrs. Sanders, who smiled back again.

'The action's going on, and no mistake,' thought Sam, asMrs. Bardell re-entered with the receipt.

'Here's the receipt, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'and here's thechange, and I hope you'll take a little drop of something to keepthe cold out, if it's only for old acquaintance' sake, Mr. Weller.'

Sam saw the advantage he should gain, and at once acquiesced;whereupon Mrs. Bardell produced, from a small closet, a blackbottle and a wine-glass; and so great was her abstraction, in herdeep mental affliction, that, after filling Mr. Weller's glass, shebrought out three more wine-glasses, and filled them too.

'Lauk, Mrs. Bardell,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'see what you've beenand done!'

'Well, that is a good one!' ejaculated Mrs. Sanders.

'Ah, my poor head!' said Mrs. Bardell, with a faint smile.

Sam understood all this, of course, so he said at once, that henever could drink before supper, unless a lady drank with him.A great deal of laughter ensued, and Mrs. Sanders volunteered tohumour him, so she took a slight sip out of her glass. Then Samsaid it must go all round, so they all took a slight sip. Then littleMrs. Cluppins proposed as a toast, 'Success to Bardell aginPickwick'; and then the ladies emptied their glasses in honour ofthe sentiment, and got very talkative directly.

'I suppose you've heard what's going forward, Mr. Weller?'said Mrs. Bardell.

'I've heerd somethin' on it,' replied Sam.

'It's a terrible thing to be dragged before the public, in thatway, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell; 'but I see now, that it's theonly thing I ought to do, and my lawyers, Mr. Dodson and Fogg,tell me that, with the evidence as we shall call, we must succeed.I don't know what I should do, Mr. Weller, if I didn't.'

The mere idea of Mrs. Bardell's failing in her action, affectedMrs. Sanders so deeply, that she was under the necessity ofrefilling and re-emptying her glass immediately; feeling, as shesaid afterwards, that if she hadn't had the presence of mind to doso, she must have dropped.

'Ven is it expected to come on?' inquired Sam.

'Either in February or March,' replied Mrs. Bardell.

'What a number of witnesses there'll be, won't there,?' saidMrs. Cluppins.

'Ah! won't there!' replied Mrs. Sanders.

'And won't Mr. Dodson and Fogg be wild if the plaintiff shouldn'tget it?' added Mrs. Cluppins, 'when they do it all on speculation!'

'Ah! won't they!' said Mrs. Sanders.

'But the plaintiff must get it,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins.

'I hope so,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'Oh, there can't be any doubt about it,' rejoined Mrs. Sanders.

'Vell,' said Sam, rising and setting down his glass, 'all I can sayis, that I vish you MAY get it.'

'Thank'ee, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell fervently.

'And of them Dodson and Foggs, as does these sort o' thingson spec,' continued Mr. Weller, 'as vell as for the other kind andgen'rous people o' the same purfession, as sets people by the ears,free gratis for nothin', and sets their clerks to work to find outlittle disputes among their neighbours and acquaintances asvants settlin' by means of lawsuits--all I can say o' them is, thatI vish they had the reward I'd give 'em.'

'Ah, I wish they had the reward that every kind and generousheart would be inclined to bestow upon them!' said the gratifiedMrs. Bardell.

'Amen to that,' replied Sam, 'and a fat and happy liven' they'dget out of it! Wish you good-night, ladies.'

To the great relief of Mrs. Sanders, Sam was allowed to departwithout any reference, on the part of the hostess, to the pettitoesand toasted cheese; to which the ladies, with such juvenileassistance as Master Bardell could afford, soon afterwardsrendered the amplest justice--indeed they wholly vanished beforetheir strenuous exertions.

Mr. Weller wended his way back to the George and Vulture,and faithfully recounted to his master, such indications of thesharp practice of Dodson & Fogg, as he had contrived to pick upin his visit to Mrs. Bardell's. An interview with Mr. Perker, nextday, more than confirmed Mr. Weller's statement; and Mr.Pickwick was fain to prepare for his Christmas visit to DingleyDell, with the pleasant anticipation that some two or threemonths afterwards, an action brought against him for damagessustained by reason of a breach of promise of marriage, wouldbe publicly tried in the Court of Common Pleas; the plaintiffhaving all the advantages derivable, not only from the force ofcircumstances, but from the sharp practice of Dodson & Foggto boot.

CHAPTER XXVIISAMUEL WELLER MAKES A PILGRIMAGE TO DORKING,AND BEHOLDS HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW

There still remaining an interval of two days before the time agreedupon for the departure of the Pickwickians to Dingley Dell, Mr.Weller sat himself down in a back room at the George and Vulture,after eating an early dinner, to muse on the best way of disposing ofhis time. It was a remarkably fine day; and he had not turned thematter over in his mind ten minutes, when he was suddenly strickenfilial and affectionate; and it occurred to him so strongly that heought to go down and see his father, and pay his duty to hismother-in-law, that he was lost in astonishment at his own remissnessin never thinking of this moral obligation before. Anxious to atonefor his past neglect without another hour's delay, he straightwaywalked upstairs to Mr. Pickwick, and requested leave of absence forthis laudable purpose.

'Certainly, Sam, certainly,' said Mr. Pickwick, his eyesglistening with delight at this manifestation of filial feeling on thepart of his attendant; 'certainly, Sam.'

Mr. Weller made a grateful bow.

'I am very glad to see that you have so high a sense of yourduties as a son, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'I always had, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'That's a very gratifying reflection, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwickapprovingly.

'Wery, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'if ever I wanted anythin' o'my father, I always asked for it in a wery 'spectful and obligin'manner. If he didn't give it me, I took it, for fear I should be ledto do anythin' wrong, through not havin' it. I saved him a worldo' trouble this vay, Sir.'

'That's not precisely what I meant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick,shaking his head, with a slight smile.

'All good feelin', sir--the wery best intentions, as the gen'l'm'nsaid ven he run away from his wife 'cos she seemed unhappywith him,' replied Mr. Weller.

'You may go, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Thank'ee, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; and having made his bestbow, and put on his best clothes, Sam planted himself on the topof the Arundel coach, and journeyed on to Dorking.

The Marquis of Granby, in Mrs. Weller's time, was quite amodel of a roadside public-house of the better class--just largeenough to be convenient, and small enough to be snug. On theopposite side of the road was a large sign-board on a high post,representing the head and shoulders of a gentleman with anapoplectic countenance, in a red coat with deep blue facings, anda touch of the same blue over his three-cornered hat, for a sky.Over that again were a pair of flags; beneath the last button ofhis coat were a couple of cannon; and the whole formed anexpressive and undoubted likeness of the Marquis of Granby ofglorious memory.

The bar window displayed a choice collection of geraniumplants, and a well-dusted row of spirit phials. The open shuttersbore a variety of golden inscriptions, eulogistic of good beds andneat wines; and the choice group of countrymen and hostlerslounging about the stable door and horse-trough, affordedpresumptive proof of the excellent quality of the ale and spiritswhich were sold within. Sam Weller paused, when he dismountedfrom the coach, to note all these little indications of a thrivingbusiness, with the eye of an experienced traveller; and havingdone so, stepped in at once, highly satisfied with everything hehad observed.

'Now, then!' said a shrill female voice the instant Sam thrusthis head in at the door, 'what do you want, young man?'

Sam looked round in the direction whence the voice proceeded.It came from a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance, whowas seated beside the fireplace in the bar, blowing the fire tomake the kettle boil for tea. She was not alone; for on the otherside of the fireplace, sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair,was a man in threadbare black clothes, with a back almost aslong and stiff as that of the chair itself, who caught Sam's mostparticular and especial attention at once.

He was a prim-faced, red-nosed man, with a long, thincountenance, and a semi-rattlesnake sort of eye--rather sharp,but decidedly bad. He wore very short trousers, and black cottonstockings, which, like the rest of his apparel, were particularlyrusty. His looks were starched, but his white neckerchief was not,and its long limp ends straggled over his closely-buttoned waistcoatin a very uncouth and unpicturesque fashion. A pair of old,worn, beaver gloves, a broad-brimmed hat, and a faded greenumbrella, with plenty of whalebone sticking through the bottom,as if to counterbalance the want of a handle at the top, lay on achair beside him; and, being disposed in a very tidy and carefulmanner, seemed to imply that the red-nosed man, whoever hewas, had no intention of going away in a hurry.

To do the red-nosed man justice, he would have been very farfrom wise if he had entertained any such intention; for, to judgefrom all appearances, he must have been possessed of a mostdesirable circle of acquaintance, if he could have reasonablyexpected to be more comfortable anywhere else. The fire wasblazing brightly under the influence of the bellows, and the kettlewas singing gaily under the influence of both. A small tray oftea-things was arranged on the table; a plate of hot butteredtoast was gently simmering before the fire; and the red-nosedman himself was busily engaged in converting a large slice ofbread into the same agreeable edible, through the instrumentalityof a long brass toasting-fork. Beside him stood a glass of reekinghot pine-apple rum-and-water, with a slice of lemon in it; andevery time the red-nosed man stopped to bring the round of toastto his eye, with the view of ascertaining how it got on, he imbibeda drop or two of the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and smiledupon the rather stout lady, as she blew the fire.

Sam was so lost in the contemplation of this comfortablescene, that he suffered the first inquiry of the rather stout lady topass unheeded. It was not until it had been twice repeated, eachtime in a shriller tone, that he became conscious of theimpropriety of his behaviour.

'Governor in?' inquired Sam, in reply to the question.

'No, he isn't,' replied Mrs. Weller; for the rather stout ladywas no other than the quondam relict and sole executrix of thedead-and-gone Mr. Clarke; 'no, he isn't, and I don't expect him, either.'

'I suppose he's drivin' up to-day?' said Sam.

'He may be, or he may not,' replied Mrs. Weller, butteringthe round of toast which the red-nosed man had just finished. 'Idon't know, and, what's more, I don't care.--Ask a blessin',Mr. Stiggins.'

The red-nosed man did as he was desired, and instantlycommenced on the toast with fierce voracity.

The appearance of the red-nosed man had induced Sam, atfirst sight, to more than half suspect that he was the deputy-shepherd of whom his estimable parent had spoken. The momenthe saw him eat, all doubt on the subject was removed, and heperceived at once that if he purposed to take up his temporaryquarters where he was, he must make his footing good withoutdelay. He therefore commenced proceedings by putting his armover the half-door of the bar, coolly unbolting it, and leisurelywalking in.

'Mother-in-law,' said Sam, 'how are you?'

'Why, I do believe he is a Weller!' said Mrs. W., raising hereyes to Sam's face, with no very gratified expression of countenance.

'I rayther think he is,' said the imperturbable Sam; 'and I hopethis here reverend gen'l'm'n 'll excuse me saying that I wish I wasTHE Weller as owns you, mother-in-law.'

This was a double-barrelled compliment. It implied that Mrs.Weller was a most agreeable female, and also that Mr. Stigginshad a clerical appearance. It made a visible impression at once;and Sam followed up his advantage by kissing his mother-in-law.

'Get along with you!' said Mrs. Weller, pushing him away.'For shame, young man!' said the gentleman with the red nose.

'No offence, sir, no offence,' replied Sam; 'you're wery right,though; it ain't the right sort o' thing, ven mothers-in-law isyoung and good-looking, is it, Sir?'

'It's all vanity,' said Mr. Stiggins.

'Ah, so it is,' said Mrs. Weller, setting her cap to rights.

Sam thought it was, too, but he held his peace.

The deputy-shepherd seemed by no means best pleased withSam's arrival; and when the first effervescence of the complimenthad subsided, even Mrs. Weller looked as if she could havespared him without the smallest inconvenience. However, therehe was; and as he couldn't be decently turned out, they all threesat down to tea.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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