Mr. Pickwick was right--the firing ceased; but he had scarcelytime to congratulate
himself on the accuracy of his opinion, whena quick movement was visible in the
line; the hoarse shout of theword of command ran along it, and before either of
the partycould form a guess at the meaning of this new manoeuvre, thewhole of the
half-dozen regiments, with fixed bayonets, chargedat double-quick time down upon
the very spot on which Mr.Pickwick and his friends were stationed.Man is but mortal;
and there is a point beyond which humancourage cannot extend. Mr. Pickwick gazed
through his spectaclesfor an instant on the advancing mass, and then fairly turned
hisback and--we will not say fled; firstly, because it is an ignobleterm, and, secondly,
because Mr. Pickwick's figure was by nomeans adapted for that mode of retreat--he
trotted away, at asquick a rate as his legs would convey him; so quickly, indeed,that
he did not perceive the awkwardness of his situation, to thefull extent, until too
The opposite troops, whose falling-in had perplexed Mr.Pickwick a few seconds
before, were drawn up to repel the mimicattack of the sham besiegers of the citadel;
and the consequencewas that Mr. Pickwick and his two companions found themselvessuddenly
inclosed between two lines of great length, the oneadvancing at a rapid pace, and
the other firmly waiting thecollision in hostile array.
'Hoi!' shouted the officers of the advancing line.
'Get out of the way!' cried the officers of the stationary one.
'Where are we to go to?' screamed the agitated Pickwickians.
'Hoi--hoi--hoi!' was the only reply. There was a moment ofintense bewilderment,
a heavy tramp of footsteps, a violentconcussion, a smothered laugh; the half-dozen
regiments werehalf a thousand yards off, and the soles of Mr. Pickwick's bootswere
elevated in air.
Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed acompulsory somerset with remarkable
agility, when the first objectthat met the eyes of the latter as he sat on the ground,
staunchingwith a yellow silk handkerchief the stream of life which issuedfrom his
nose, was his venerated leader at some distance off,running after his own hat, which
was gambolling playfully awayin perspective.
There are very few moments in a man's existence when heexperiences so much ludicrous
distress, or meets with so littlecharitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit
of his own hat.A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, arerequisite
in catching a hat. A man must not be precipitate, or heruns over it; he must not
rush into the opposite extreme, or heloses it altogether. The best way is to keep
gently up with theobject of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunitywell,
get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize itby the crown, and stick
it firmly on your head; smiling pleasantlyall the time, as if you thought it as
good a joke as anybody else.
There was a fine gentle wind, and Mr. Pickwick's hat rolledsportively before
it. The wind puffed, and Mr. Pickwick puffed,and the hat rolled over and over as
merrily as a lively porpoisein a strong tide: and on it might have rolled, far beyondMr.
Pickwick's reach, had not its course been providentiallystopped, just as that gentleman
was on the point of resigning itto its fate.
Mr. Pickwick, we say, was completely exhausted, and about togive up the chase,
when the hat was blown with some violenceagainst the wheel of a carriage, which
was drawn up in a line withhalf a dozen other vehicles on the spot to which his
steps had beendirected. Mr. Pickwick, perceiving his advantage, darted brisklyforward,
secured his property, planted it on his head, and pausedto take breath. He had not
been stationary half a minute, whenhe heard his own name eagerly pronounced by a
voice, which heat once recognised as Mr. Tupman's, and, looking upwards, hebeheld
a sight which filled him with surprise and pleasure.
in an open barouche, the horses of which had been taken out,the better to accommodate
it to the crowded place, stood a stoutold gentleman, in a blue coat and bright buttons,
corduroybreeches and top-boots, two young ladies in scarfs and feathers, ayoung
gentleman apparently enamoured of one of the youngladies in scarfs and feathers,
a lady of doubtful age, probably theaunt of the aforesaid, and Mr. Tupman, as easy
and unconcernedas if he had belonged to the family from the first moments of hisinfancy.
Fastened up behind the barouche was a hamper ofspacious dimensions--one of those
hampers which alwaysawakens in a contemplative mind associations connected withcold
fowls, tongues, and bottles of wine--and on the box sat afat and red-faced boy,
in a state of somnolency, whom nospeculative observer could have regarded for an
instant withoutsetting down as the official dispenser of the contents of thebefore-mentioned
hamper, when the proper time for theirconsumption should arrive.
Mr. Pickwick had bestowed a hasty glance on these interestingobjects, when he
was again greeted by his faithful disciple.
'Pickwick--Pickwick,' said Mr. Tupman; 'come up here. Make haste.'
'Come along, Sir. Pray, come up,' said the stout gentleman.'Joe!--damn that boy,
he's gone to sleep again.--Joe, let downthe steps.' The fat boy rolled slowly off
the box, let down thesteps, and held the carriage door invitingly open. Mr. Snodgrassand
Mr. Winkle came up at the moment.
'Room for you all, gentlemen,' said the stout man. 'Two inside,and one out. Joe,
make room for one of these gentlemen on thebox. Now, Sir, come along;' and the stout
gentleman extendedhis arm, and pulled first Mr. Pickwick, and then Mr. Snodgrass,into
the barouche by main force. Mr. Winkle mounted to thebox, the fat boy waddled to
the same perch, and fell fast asleepinstantly.
'Well, gentlemen,' said the stout man, 'very glad to see you.Know you very well,
gentlemen, though you mayn't rememberme. I spent some ev'nin's at your club last
winter--picked up myfriend Mr. Tupman here this morning, and very glad I was to
seehim. Well, Sir, and how are you? You do look uncommon well,to be sure.'
Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment, and cordiallyshook hands with the stout
gentleman in the top-boots.
'Well, and how are you, sir?' said the stout gentleman,addressing Mr. Snodgrass
with paternal anxiety. 'Charming, eh?Well, that's right--that's right. And how are
you, sir (to Mr.Winkle)? Well, I am glad to hear you say you are well; very gladI
am, to be sure. My daughters, gentlemen--my gals these are;and that's my sister,
Miss Rachael Wardle. She's a Miss, she is;and yet she ain't a Miss--eh, Sir, eh?'
And the stout gentlemanplayfully inserted his elbow between the ribs of Mr. Pickwick,
andlaughed very heartily.
'Lor, brother!' said Miss Wardle, with a deprecating smile.
'True, true,' said the stout gentleman; 'no one can deny it.Gentlemen, I beg
your pardon; this is my friend Mr. Trundle.And now you all know each other, let's
be comfortable andhappy, and see what's going forward; that's what I say.' So thestout
gentleman put on his spectacles, and Mr. Pickwick pulledout his glass, and everybody
stood up in the carriage, and lookedover somebody else's shoulder at the evolutions
of the military.
Astounding evolutions they were, one rank firing over theheads of another rank,
and then running away; and then theother rank firing over the heads of another rank,
and runningaway in their turn; and then forming squares, with officers in thecentre;
and then descending the trench on one side with scaling-ladders, and ascending it
on the other again by the same means;and knocking down barricades of baskets, and
behaving in themost gallant manner possible. Then there was such a rammingdown of
the contents of enormous guns on the battery, withinstruments like magnified mops;
such a preparation before theywere let off, and such an awful noise when they did
go, that theair resounded with the screams of ladies. The young MissesWardle were
so frightened, that Mr. Trundle was actually obligedto hold one of them up in the
carriage, while Mr. Snodgrasssupported the other; and Mr. Wardle's sister suffered
under sucha dreadful state of nervous alarm, that Mr. Tupman found itindispensably
necessary to put his arm round her waist, to keepher up at all. Everybody was excited,
except the fat boy, and heslept as soundly as if the roaring of cannon were his
'Joe, Joe!' said the stout gentleman, when the citadel wastaken, and the besiegers
and besieged sat down to dinner. 'Damnthat boy, he's gone to sleep again. Be good
enough to pinch him,sir--in the leg, if you please; nothing else wakes him--thank
you.Undo the hamper, Joe.'
The fat boy, who had been effectually roused by thecompression of a portion of
his leg between the finger and thumb ofMr. Winkle, rolled off the box once again,
and proceeded tounpack the hamper with more expedition than could have beenexpected
from his previous inactivity.
'Now we must sit close,' said the stout gentleman. After agreat many jokes about
squeezing the ladies' sleeves, and a vastquantity of blushing at sundry jocose proposals,
that the ladiesshould sit in the gentlemen's laps, the whole party were stoweddown
in the barouche; and the stout gentleman proceeded tohand the things from the fat
boy (who had mounted up behindfor the purpose) into the carriage.
'Now, Joe, knives and forks.' The knives and forks werehanded in, and the ladies
and gentlemen inside, and Mr. Winkleon the box, were each furnished with those useful
'Plates, Joe, plates.' A similar process employed in thedistribution of the crockery.
'Now, Joe, the fowls. Damn that boy; he's gone to sleep again.Joe! Joe!' (Sundry
taps on the head with a stick, and the fat boy,with some difficulty, roused from
his lethargy.) 'Come, hand inthe eatables.'
There was something in the sound of the last word whichroused the unctuous boy.
He jumped up, and the leaden eyeswhich twinkled behind his mountainous cheeks leered
horriblyupon the food as he unpacked it from the basket.
'Now make haste,' said Mr. Wardle; for the fat boy washanging fondly over a capon,
which he seemed wholly unable topart with. The boy sighed deeply, and, bestowing
an ardent gazeupon its plumpness, unwillingly consigned it to his master.
'That's right--look sharp. Now the tongue--now the pigeonpie. Take care of that
veal and ham--mind the lobsters--take thesalad out of the cloth--give me the dressing.'
Such were thehurried orders which issued from the lips of Mr. Wardle, as hehanded
in the different articles described, and placed dishes ineverybody's hands, and
on everybody's knees, in endless number.'Now ain't this capital?' inquired that
jolly personage, whenthe work of destruction had commenced.
'Capital!' said Mr. Winkle, who was carving a fowl on the box.
'Glass of wine?'
'With the greatest pleasure.''You'd better have a bottle to yourself up there,
'You're very good.'
'Yes, Sir.' (He wasn't asleep this time, having just succeeded inabstracting
a veal patty.)
'Bottle of wine to the gentleman on the box. Glad to see you, Sir.'
'Thank'ee.' Mr. Winkle emptied his glass, and placed the bottleon the coach-box,
by his side.
'Will you permit me to have the pleasure, Sir?' said Mr. Trundleto Mr. Winkle.
'With great pleasure,' replied Mr. Winkle to Mr. Trundle,and then the two gentlemen
took wine, after which they took aglass of wine round, ladies and all.
'How dear Emily is flirting with the strange gentleman,'whispered the spinster
aunt, with true spinster-aunt-like envy, toher brother, Mr. Wardle.
'Oh! I don't know,' said the jolly old gentleman; 'all verynatural, I dare say--nothing
unusual. Mr. Pickwick, some wine,Sir?' Mr. Pickwick, who had been deeply investigating
theinterior of the pigeon-pie, readily assented.
'Emily, my dear,' said the spinster aunt, with a patronising air,'don't talk
so loud, love.'
'Aunt and the little old gentleman want to have it all tothemselves, I think,'
whispered Miss Isabella Wardle to her sisterEmily. The young ladies laughed very
heartily, and the old onetried to look amiable, but couldn't manage it.
'Young girls have such spirits,' said Miss Wardle to Mr. Tupman,with an air of
gentle commiseration, as if animal spiritswere contraband, and their possession
without a permit a highcrime and misdemeanour.
'Oh, they have,' replied Mr. Tupman, not exactly making thesort of reply that
was expected from him. 'It's quite delightful.'
'Hem!' said Miss Wardle, rather dubiously.
'Will you permit me?' said Mr. Tupman, in his blandestmanner, touching the enchanting
Rachael's wrist with one hand,and gently elevating the bottle with the other. 'Will
you permit me?'
'Oh, sir!' Mr. Tupman looked most impressive; and Rachaelexpressed her fear that
more guns were going off, in which case,of course, she should have required support
'Do you think my dear nieces pretty?' whispered theiraffectionate aunt to Mr.
'I should, if their aunt wasn't here,' replied the readyPickwickian, with a passionate
'Oh, you naughty man--but really, if their complexions were alittle better, don't
you think they would be nice-looking girls--by candlelight?'
'Yes; I think they would,' said Mr. Tupman, with an airof indifference.
'Oh, you quiz--I know what you were going to say.'
'What?' inquired Mr. Tupman, who had not precisely madeup his mind to say anything
'You were going to say that Isabel stoops--I know you were--you men are such
observers. Well, so she does; it can't be denied;and, certainly, if there is one
thing more than another that makesa girl look ugly it is stooping. I often tell
her that when she gets alittle older she'll be quite frightful. Well, you are a