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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 65)


'Not much,' said Mr. Winkle, rubbing his back very hard.'I wish you'd let me bleed you,' said Mr. Benjamin, with great eagerness.

'No, thank you,' replied Mr. Winkle hurriedly.

'I really think you had better,' said Allen.

'Thank you,' replied Mr. Winkle; 'I'd rather not.'

'What do YOU think, Mr. Pickwick?' inquired Bob Sawyer.

Mr. Pickwick was excited and indignant. He beckoned toMr. Weller, and said in a stern voice, 'Take his skates off.'

'No; but really I had scarcely begun,' remonstrated Mr. Winkle.

'Take his skates off,' repeated Mr. Pickwick firmly.

The command was not to be resisted. Mr. Winkle allowedSam to obey it, in silence.

'Lift him up,' said Mr. Pickwick. Sam assisted him to rise.

Mr. Pickwick retired a few paces apart from the bystanders;and, beckoning his friend to approach, fixed a searching lookupon him, and uttered in a low, but distinct and emphatic tone,these remarkable words--

'You're a humbug, sir.''A what?' said Mr. Winkle, starting.

'A humbug, Sir. I will speak plainer, if you wish it. Animpostor, sir.'

With those words, Mr. Pickwick turned slowly on his heel, andrejoined his friends.

While Mr. Pickwick was delivering himself of the sentimentjust recorded, Mr. Weller and the fat boy, having by their jointendeavours cut out a slide, were exercising themselves thereupon,in a very masterly and brilliant manner. Sam Weller, in particular,was displaying that beautiful feat of fancy-sliding which iscurrently denominated 'knocking at the cobbler's door,' andwhich is achieved by skimming over the ice on one foot, andoccasionally giving a postman's knock upon it with the other. Itwas a good long slide, and there was something in the motionwhich Mr. Pickwick, who was very cold with standing still,could not help envying.

'It looks a nice warm exercise that, doesn't it?' he inquired ofWardle, when that gentleman was thoroughly out of breath, byreason of the indefatigable manner in which he had converted hislegs into a pair of compasses, and drawn complicated problemson the ice.

'Ah, it does, indeed,' replied Wardle. 'Do you slide?'

'I used to do so, on the gutters, when I was a boy,' repliedMr. Pickwick.

'Try it now,' said Wardle.

'Oh, do, please, Mr. Pickwick!' cried all the ladies.

'I should be very happy to afford you any amusement,' repliedMr. Pickwick, 'but I haven't done such a thing these thirty years.'

'Pooh! pooh! Nonsense!' said Wardle, dragging off his skateswith the impetuosity which characterised all his proceedings.'Here; I'll keep you company; come along!' And away went thegood-tempered old fellow down the slide, with a rapidity whichcame very close upon Mr. Weller, and beat the fat boy all to nothing.

Mr. Pickwick paused, considered, pulled off his gloves and putthem in his hat; took two or three short runs, baulked himself asoften, and at last took another run, and went slowly and gravelydown the slide, with his feet about a yard and a quarter apart,amidst the gratified shouts of all the spectators.

'Keep the pot a-bilin', Sir!' said Sam; and down went Wardleagain, and then Mr. Pickwick, and then Sam, and then Mr.Winkle, and then Mr. Bob Sawyer, and then the fat boy, andthen Mr. Snodgrass, following closely upon each other's heels,and running after each other with as much eagerness as if theirfuture prospects in life depended on their expedition.

It was the most intensely interesting thing, to observe themanner in which Mr. Pickwick performed his share in theceremony; to watch the torture of anxiety with which he viewedthe person behind, gaining upon him at the imminent hazard oftripping him up; to see him gradually expend the painful forcehe had put on at first, and turn slowly round on the slide, with hisface towards the point from which he had started; to contemplatethe playful smile which mantled on his face when he had accomplishedthe distance, and the eagerness with which he turnedround when he had done so, and ran after his predecessor, hisblack gaiters tripping pleasantly through the snow, and his eyesbeaming cheerfulness and gladness through his spectacles. Andwhen he was knocked down (which happened upon the averageevery third round), it was the most invigorating sight that canpossibly be imagined, to behold him gather up his hat, gloves,and handkerchief, with a glowing countenance, and resume hisstation in the rank, with an ardour and enthusiasm that nothingCould abate.

The sport was at its height, the sliding was at the quickest, thelaughter was at the loudest, when a sharp smart crack was heard.There was a quick rush towards the bank, a wild scream from theladies, and a shout from Mr. Tupman. A large mass of icedisappeared; the water bubbled up over it; Mr. Pickwick's hat,gloves, and handkerchief were floating on the surface; and thiswas all of Mr. Pickwick that anybody could see.

Dismay and anguish were depicted on every countenance; themales turned pale, and the females fainted; Mr. Snodgrass andMr. Winkle grasped each other by the hand, and gazed at thespot where their leader had gone down, with frenzied eagerness;while Mr. Tupman, by way of rendering the promptest assistance,and at the same time conveying to any persons who might bewithin hearing, the clearest possible notion of the catastrophe,ran off across the country at his utmost speed, screaming 'Fire!'with all his might.

It was at this moment, when old Wardle and Sam Weller wereapproaching the hole with cautious steps, and Mr. BenjaminAllen was holding a hurried consultation with Mr. Bob Sawyeron the advisability of bleeding the company generally, as animproving little bit of professional practice--it was at this verymoment, that a face, head, and shoulders, emerged from beneath thewater, and disclosed the features and spectacles of Mr. Pickwick.

'Keep yourself up for an instant--for only one instant!'bawled Mr. Snodgrass.

'Yes, do; let me implore you--for my sake!' roared Mr.Winkle, deeply affected. The adjuration was rather unnecessary;the probability being, that if Mr. Pickwick had declined to keephimself up for anybody else's sake, it would have occurred to himthat he might as well do so, for his own.

'Do you feel the bottom there, old fellow?' said Wardle.

'Yes, certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick, wringing the water fromhis head and face, and gasping for breath. 'I fell upon my back.I couldn't get on my feet at first.'

The clay upon so much of Mr. Pickwick's coat as was yetvisible, bore testimony to the accuracy of this statement; and asthe fears of the spectators were still further relieved by the fatboy's suddenly recollecting that the water was nowhere more thanfive feet deep, prodigies of valour were performed to get him out.After a vast quantity of splashing, and cracking, and struggling,Mr. Pickwick was at length fairly extricated from his unpleasantposition, and once more stood on dry land.

'Oh, he'll catch his death of cold,' said Emily.

'Dear old thing!' said Arabella. 'Let me wrap this shawl roundyou, Mr. Pickwick.'

'Ah, that's the best thing you can do,' said Wardle; 'and whenyou've got it on, run home as fast as your legs can carry you, andjump into bed directly.'A dozen shawls were offered on the instant. Three or four ofthe thickest having been selected, Mr. Pickwick was wrapped up,and started off, under the guidance of Mr. Weller; presenting thesingular phenomenon of an elderly gentleman, dripping wet, andwithout a hat, with his arms bound down to his sides, skimmingover the ground, without any clearly-defined purpose, at the rateof six good English miles an hour.

But Mr. Pickwick cared not for appearances in such anextreme case, and urged on by Sam Weller, he kept at the verytop of his speed until he reached the door of Manor Farm, whereMr. Tupman had arrived some five minutes before, and hadfrightened the old lady into palpitations of the heart byimpressing her with the unalterable conviction that the kitchenchimney was on fire--a calamity which always presented itself inglowing colours to the old lady's mind, when anybody about herevinced the smallest agitation.

Mr. Pickwick paused not an instant until he was snug in bed.Sam Weller lighted a blazing fire in the room, and took up hisdinner; a bowl of punch was carried up afterwards, and a grandcarouse held in honour of his safety. Old Wardle would not hearof his rising, so they made the bed the chair, and Mr. Pickwickpresided. A second and a third bowl were ordered in; and whenMr. Pickwick awoke next morning, there was not a symptom ofrheumatism about him; which proves, as Mr. Bob Sawyer veryjustly observed, that there is nothing like hot punch in such cases;and that if ever hot punch did fail to act as a preventive, it wasmerely because the patient fell into the vulgar error of not takingenough of it.

The jovial party broke up next morning. Breakings-up arecapital things in our school-days, but in after life they are painfulenough. Death, self-interest, and fortune's changes, are every daybreaking up many a happy group, and scattering them far andwide; and the boys and girls never come back again. We do notmean to say that it was exactly the case in this particular instance;all we wish to inform the reader is, that the different members ofthe party dispersed to their several homes; that Mr. Pickwick andhis friends once more took their seats on the top of the Muggletoncoach; and that Arabella Allen repaired to her place of destination,wherever it might have been--we dare say Mr. Winkleknew, but we confess we don't--under the care and guardianshipof her brother Benjamin, and his most intimate and particularfriend, Mr. Bob Sawyer.

Before they separated, however, that gentleman and Mr.Benjamin Allen drew Mr. Pickwick aside with an air of somemystery; and Mr. Bob Sawyer, thrusting his forefinger betweentwo of Mr. Pickwick's ribs, and thereby displaying his nativedrollery, and his knowledge of the anatomy of the human frame,at one and the same time, inquired--

'I say, old boy, where do you hang out?'Mr. Pickwick replied that he was at present suspended at theGeorge and Vulture.

'I wish you'd come and see me,' said Bob Sawyer.

'Nothing would give me greater pleasure,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'There's my lodgings,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, producing a card.'Lant Street, Borough; it's near Guy's, and handy for me, youknow. Little distance after you've passed St. George's Church--turns out of the High Street on the right hand side the way.'

'I shall find it,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Come on Thursday fortnight, and bring the other chaps withyou,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer; 'I'm going to have a few medicalfellows that night.'

Mr. Pickwick expressed the pleasure it would afford him tomeet the medical fellows; and after Mr. Bob Sawyer hadinformed him that he meant to be very cosy, and that his friendBen was to be one of the party, they shook hands and separated.

We feel that in this place we lay ourself open to the inquirywhether Mr. Winkle was whispering, during this brief conversation,to Arabella Allen; and if so, what he said; and furthermore,whether Mr. Snodgrass was conversing apart with Emily Wardle;and if so, what HE said. To this, we reply, that whatever theymight have said to the ladies, they said nothing at all to Mr.Pickwick or Mr. Tupman for eight-and-twenty miles, and thatthey sighed very often, refused ale and brandy, and lookedgloomy. If our observant lady readers can deduce any satisfactoryinferences from these facts, we beg them by all means to do so.

CHAPTER XXXIWHICH IS ALL ABOUT THE LAW, AND SUNDRY GREATAUTHORITIES LEARNED THEREIN

Scattered about, in various holes and corners of the Temple,are certain dark and dirty chambers, in and out of which,all the morning in vacation, and half the evening too interm time, there may be seen constantly hurrying with bundles ofpapers under their arms, and protruding from their pockets, analmost uninterrupted succession of lawyers' clerks. There areseveral grades of lawyers' clerks. There is the articled clerk, whohas paid a premium, and is an attorney in perspective, who runs atailor's bill, receives invitations to parties, knows a family inGower Street, and another in Tavistock Square; who goes outof town every long vacation to see his father, who keeps livehorses innumerable; and who is, in short, the very aristocrat ofclerks. There is the salaried clerk--out of door, or in door, asthe case may be--who devotes the major part of his thirty shillingsa week to his Personal pleasure and adornments, repairs half-priceto the Adelphi Theatre at least three times a week, dissipatesmajestically at the cider cellars afterwards, and is a dirty caricatureof the fashion which expired six months ago. There is the middle-aged copying clerk, with a large family, who is always shabby,and often drunk. And there are the office lads in their firstsurtouts, who feel a befitting contempt for boys at day-schools,club as they go home at night, for saveloys and porter, and thinkthere's nothing like 'life.' There are varieties of the genus, toonumerous to recapitulate, but however numerous they may be,they are all to be seen, at certain regulated business hours,hurrying to and from the places we have just mentioned.

These sequestered nooks are the public offices of the legalprofession, where writs are issued, judgments signed, declarationsfiled, and numerous other ingenious machines put in motion forthe torture and torment of His Majesty's liege subjects, and thecomfort and emolument of the practitioners of the law. They are,for the most part, low-roofed, mouldy rooms, where innumerablerolls of parchment, which have been perspiring in secret for thelast century, send forth an agreeable odour, which is mingled byday with the scent of the dry-rot, and by night with the variousexhalations which arise from damp cloaks, festering umbrellas,and the coarsest tallow candles.

About half-past seven o'clock in the evening, some ten days ora fortnight after Mr. Pickwick and his friends returned to London,there hurried into one of these offices, an individual in a browncoat and brass buttons, whose long hair was scrupulouslytwisted round the rim of his napless hat, and whose soiled drabtrousers were so tightly strapped over his Blucher boots, that hisknees threatened every moment to start from their concealment.He produced from his coat pockets a long and narrow strip ofparchment, on which the presiding functionary impressed anillegible black stamp. He then drew forth four scraps of paper, ofsimilar dimensions, each containing a printed copy of the stripof parchment with blanks for a name; and having filled up theblanks, put all the five documents in his pocket, and hurried away.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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