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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 70)


'I should like to see you do it, Sir,' said Mr. Noddy.

'You shall FEEL me do it in half a minute, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'I request that you'll favour me with your card, Sir,' saidMr. Noddy.

'I'll do nothing of the kind, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'Why not, Sir?' inquired Mr. Noddy.

'Because you'll stick it up over your chimney-piece, and deludeyour visitors into the false belief that a gentleman has been tosee you, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'Sir, a friend of mine shall wait on you in the morning,' saidMr. Noddy.

'Sir, I'm very much obliged to you for the caution, and I'llleave particular directions with the servant to lock up the spoons,'replied Mr. Gunter.

At this point the remainder of the guests interposed, andremonstrated with both parties on the impropriety of theirconduct; on which Mr. Noddy begged to state that his father wasquite as respectable as Mr. Gunter's father; to which Mr. Gunterreplied that his father was to the full as respectable as Mr. Noddy'sfather, and that his father's son was as good a man as Mr. Noddy,any day in the week. As this announcement seemed the preludeto a recommencement of the dispute, there was another interferenceon the part of the company; and a vast quantity oftalking and clamouring ensued, in the course of which Mr. Noddygradually allowed his feelings to overpower him, and professedthat he had ever entertained a devoted personal attachmenttowards Mr. Gunter. To this Mr. Gunter replied that, upon thewhole, he rather preferred Mr. Noddy to his own brother; onhearing which admission, Mr. Noddy magnanimously rose fromhis seat, and proffered his hand to Mr. Gunter. Mr. Guntergrasped it with affecting fervour; and everybody said that thewhole dispute had been conducted in a manner which was highlyhonourable to both parties concerned.

'Now,' said Jack Hopkins, 'just to set us going again, Bob, Idon't mind singing a song.' And Hopkins, incited thereto bytumultuous applause, plunged himself at once into 'The King,God bless him,' which he sang as loud as he could, to a novel air,compounded of the 'Bay of Biscay,' and 'A Frog he would.'The chorus was the essence of the song; and, as each gentlemansang it to the tune he knew best, the effect was very striking indeed.

It was at the end of the chorus to the first verse, that Mr.Pickwick held up his hand in a listening attitude, and said, assoon as silence was restored--

'Hush! I beg your pardon. I thought I heard somebody callingfrom upstairs.'

A profound silence immediately ensued; and Mr. Bob Sawyerwas observed to turn pale.

'I think I hear it now,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Have the goodnessto open the door.'

The door was no sooner opened than all doubt on the subjectwas removed.

'Mr. Sawyer! Mr. Sawyer!' screamed a voice from the two-pair landing.

'It's my landlady,' said Bob Sawyer, looking round him withgreat dismay. 'Yes, Mrs. Raddle.'

'What do you mean by this, Mr. Sawyer?' replied the voice,with great shrillness and rapidity of utterance. 'Ain't it enoughto be swindled out of one's rent, and money lent out of pocketbesides, and abused and insulted by your friends that dares tocall themselves men, without having the house turned out of thewindow, and noise enough made to bring the fire-engines here,at two o'clock in the morning?--Turn them wretches away.'

'You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,' said the voice ofMr. Raddle, which appeared to proceed from beneath somedistant bed-clothes.

'Ashamed of themselves!' said Mrs. Raddle. 'Why don't yougo down and knock 'em every one downstairs? You would ifyou was a man.''I should if I was a dozen men, my dear,' replied Mr. Raddlepacifically, 'but they have the advantage of me in numbers, my dear.'

'Ugh, you coward!' replied Mrs. Raddle, with supreme contempt.'DO you mean to turn them wretches out, or not, Mr. Sawyer?'

'They're going, Mrs. Raddle, they're going,' said the miserableBob. 'I am afraid you'd better go,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer to hisfriends. 'I thought you were making too much noise.'

'It's a very unfortunate thing,' said the prim man. 'Just as wewere getting so comfortable too!' The prim man was justbeginning to have a dawning recollection of the story he had forgotten.

'It's hardly to be borne,' said the prim man, looking round.'Hardly to be borne, is it?'

'Not to be endured,' replied Jack Hopkins; 'let's have theother verse, Bob. Come, here goes!'

'No, no, Jack, don't,' interposed Bob Sawyer; 'it's a capitalsong, but I am afraid we had better not have the other verse.They are very violent people, the people of the house.'

'Shall I step upstairs, and pitch into the landlord?' inquiredHopkins, 'or keep on ringing the bell, or go and groan on thestaircase? You may command me, Bob.'

'I am very much indebted to you for your friendship and good-nature, Hopkins,' said the wretched Mr. Bob Sawyer, 'but Ithink the best plan to avoid any further dispute is for us tobreak up at once.'

'Now, Mr. Sawyer,' screamed the shrill voice of Mrs. Raddle,'are them brutes going?'

'They're only looking for their hats, Mrs. Raddle,' said Bob;'they are going directly.'

'Going!' said Mrs. Raddle, thrusting her nightcap over thebanisters just as Mr. Pickwick, followed by Mr. Tupman,emerged from the sitting-room. 'Going! what did they evercome for?'

'My dear ma'am,' remonstrated Mr. Pickwick, looking up.

'Get along with you, old wretch!' replied Mrs. Raddle, hastilywithdrawing the nightcap. 'Old enough to be his grandfather,you willin! You're worse than any of 'em.'

Mr. Pickwick found it in vain to protest his innocence, sohurried downstairs into the street, whither he was closelyfollowed by Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.Mr. Ben Allen, who was dismally depressed with spirits andagitation, accompanied them as far as London Bridge, and in thecourse of the walk confided to Mr. Winkle, as an especiallyeligible person to intrust the secret to, that he was resolved tocut the throat of any gentleman, except Mr. Bob Sawyer, whoshould aspire to the affections of his sister Arabella. Havingexpressed his determination to perform this painful duty of abrother with proper firmness, he burst into tears, knocked his hatover his eyes, and, making the best of his way back, knockeddouble knocks at the door of the Borough Market office,and took short naps on the steps alternately, until daybreak,under the firm impression that he lived there, and had forgottenthe key.

The visitors having all departed, in compliance with the ratherpressing request of Mrs. Raddle, the luckless Mr. Bob Sawyerwas left alone, to meditate on the probable events of to-morrow,and the pleasures of the evening.

CHAPTER XXXIIIMr. WELLER THE ELDER DELIVERS SOME CRITICAL SENTIMENTSRESPECTING LITERARY COMPOSITION; AND,ASSISTED BY HIS SON SAMUEL, PAYS A SMALL INSTALMENTOF RETALIATION TO THE ACCOUNT OF THE REVERENDGENTLEMAN WITH THE RED NOSE

The morning of the thirteenth of February, which the readers ofthis authentic narrative know, as well as we do, to have been the dayimmediately preceding that which was appointed for the trial ofMrs. Bardell's action, was a busy time for Mr. Samuel Weller, whowas perpetually engaged in travelling from the George and Vulture toMr. Perker's chambers and back again, from and between the hoursof nine o'clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, bothinclusive. Not that there was anything whatever to be done, for theconsultation had taken place, and the course of proceeding to beadopted, had been finally determined on; but Mr. Pickwick being ina most extreme state of excitement, persevered in constantlysending small notes to his attorney, merely containing the inquiry,'Dear Perker. Is all going on well?' to which Mr. Perkerinvariably forwarded the reply, 'Dear Pickwick. As well aspossible'; the fact being, as we have already hinted, that therewas nothing whatever to go on, either well or ill, until thesitting of the court on the following morning.

But people who go voluntarily to law, or are taken forciblythere, for the first time, may be allowed to labour under sometemporary irritation and anxiety; and Sam, with a due allowancefor the frailties of human nature, obeyed all his master's behestswith that imperturbable good-humour and unruffable composurewhich formed one of his most striking and amiable characteristics.

Sam had solaced himself with a most agreeable little dinner,and was waiting at the bar for the glass of warm mixture in whichMr. Pickwick had requested him to drown the fatigues of hismorning's walks, when a young boy of about three feet high, orthereabouts, in a hairy cap and fustian overalls, whose garbbespoke a laudable ambition to attain in time the elevation ofan hostler, entered the passage of the George and Vulture, andlooked first up the stairs, and then along the passage, and theninto the bar, as if in search of somebody to whom he bore acommission; whereupon the barmaid, conceiving it notimprobable that the said commission might be directed to the tea ortable spoons of the establishment, accosted the boy with--

'Now, young man, what do you want?'

'Is there anybody here, named Sam?' inquired the youth, in aloud voice of treble quality.

'What's the t'other name?' said Sam Weller, looking round.

'How should I know?' briskly replied the young gentlemanbelow the hairy cap.'You're a sharp boy, you are,' said Mr. Weller; 'only Iwouldn't show that wery fine edge too much, if I was you, in caseanybody took it off. What do you mean by comin' to a hot-el,and asking arter Sam, vith as much politeness as a vild Indian?'

''Cos an old gen'l'm'n told me to,' replied the boy.

'What old gen'l'm'n?' inquired Sam, with deep disdain.

'Him as drives a Ipswich coach, and uses our parlour,' rejoinedthe boy. 'He told me yesterday mornin' to come to the Georgeand Wultur this arternoon, and ask for Sam.'

'It's my father, my dear,' said Mr. Weller, turning with anexplanatory air to the young lady in the bar; 'blessed if I thinkhe hardly knows wot my other name is. Well, young brockileysprout, wot then?'

'Why then,' said the boy, 'you was to come to him at sixo'clock to our 'ouse, 'cos he wants to see you--Blue Boar,Leaden'all Markit. Shall I say you're comin'?'

'You may wenture on that 'ere statement, Sir,' replied Sam.And thus empowered, the young gentleman walked away,awakening all the echoes in George Yard as he did so, withseveral chaste and extremely correct imitations of a drover'swhistle, delivered in a tone of peculiar richness and volume.

Mr. Weller having obtained leave of absence from Mr. Pickwick,who, in his then state of excitement and worry, was by nomeans displeased at being left alone, set forth, long before theappointed hour, and having plenty of time at his disposal,sauntered down as far as the Mansion House, where he pausedand contemplated, with a face of great calmness and philosophy,the numerous cads and drivers of short stages who assemble nearthat famous place of resort, to the great terror and confusion ofthe old-lady population of these realms. Having loitered here, forhalf an hour or so, Mr. Weller turned, and began wending hisway towards Leadenhall Market, through a variety of by-streetsand courts. As he was sauntering away his spare time, andstopped to look at almost every object that met his gaze, it is byno means surprising that Mr. Weller should have paused beforea small stationer's and print-seller's window; but without furtherexplanation it does appear surprising that his eyes should haveno sooner rested on certain pictures which were exposed for saletherein, than he gave a sudden start, smote his right leg withgreat vehemence, and exclaimed, with energy, 'if it hadn't beenfor this, I should ha' forgot all about it, till it was too late!'

The particular picture on which Sam Weller's eyes were fixed,as he said this, was a highly-coloured representation of a coupleof human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cookingbefore a cheerful fire, while a male and female cannibal inmodern attire, the gentleman being clad in a blue coat and whitetrousers, and the lady in a deep red pelisse with a parasol of thesame, were approaching the meal with hungry eyes, up a serpentinegravel path leading thereunto. A decidedly indelicate younggentleman, in a pair of wings and nothing else, was depicted assuperintending the cooking; a representation of the spire of thechurch in Langham Place, London, appeared in the distance;and the whole formed a 'valentine,' of which, as a writteninscription in the window testified, there was a large assortmentwithin, which the shopkeeper pledged himself to dispose of, to hiscountrymen generally, at the reduced rate of one-and-sixpence each.

'I should ha' forgot it; I should certainly ha' forgot it!' saidSam; so saying, he at once stepped into the stationer's shop, andrequested to be served with a sheet of the best gilt-edged letter-paper, and a hard-nibbed pen which could be warranted not tosplutter. These articles having been promptly supplied, hewalked on direct towards Leadenhall Market at a good roundpace, very different from his recent lingering one. Looking roundhim, he there beheld a signboard on which the painter's art haddelineated something remotely resembling a cerulean elephantwith an aquiline nose in lieu of trunk. Rightly conjecturing thatthis was the Blue Boar himself, he stepped into the house, andinquired concerning his parent.

'He won't be here this three-quarters of an hour or more,' saidthe young lady who superintended the domestic arrangements ofthe Blue Boar.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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