Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 20)

'Come, don't be a fool, Sam,' said the girl coaxingly, 'thegentleman wants his boots directly.'

'Well, you ARE a nice young 'ooman for a musical party, youare,' said the boot-cleaner. 'Look at these here boots--elevenpair o' boots; and one shoe as belongs to number six, with thewooden leg. The eleven boots is to be called at half-past eight andthe shoe at nine. Who's number twenty-two, that's to put all theothers out? No, no; reg'lar rotation, as Jack Ketch said, ven hetied the men up. Sorry to keep you a-waitin', Sir, but I'll attendto you directly.'

Saying which, the man in the white hat set to work upon atop-boot with increased assiduity.

There was another loud ring; and the bustling old landlady ofthe White Hart made her appearance in the opposite gallery.

'Sam,' cried the landlady, 'where's that lazy, idle-- why, Sam--oh, there you are; why don't you answer?'

'Vouldn't be gen-teel to answer, till you'd done talking,'replied Sam gruffly.

'Here, clean these shoes for number seventeen directly, andtake 'em to private sitting-room, number five, first floor.'

The landlady flung a pair of lady's shoes into the yard, andbustled away.

'Number five,' said Sam, as he picked up the shoes, and takinga piece of chalk from his pocket, made a memorandum of theirdestination on the soles--'Lady's shoes and private sittin'-room! I suppose she didn't come in the vagin.'

'She came in early this morning,' cried the girl, who was stillleaning over the railing of the gallery, 'with a gentleman in ahackney-coach, and it's him as wants his boots, and you'd betterdo 'em, that's all about it.'

'Vy didn't you say so before,' said Sam, with great indignation,singling out the boots in question from the heap before him. 'Forall I know'd he was one o' the regular threepennies. Private room!and a lady too! If he's anything of a gen'l'm'n, he's vurth ashillin' a day, let alone the arrands.'Stimulated by this inspiring reflection, Mr. Samuel brushedaway with such hearty good-will, that in a few minutes the bootsand shoes, with a polish which would have struck envy to the soulof the amiable Mr. Warren (for they used Day & Martin at theWhite Hart), had arrived at the door of number five.

'Come in,' said a man's voice, in reply to Sam's rap at the door.Sam made his best bow, and stepped into the presence of alady and gentleman seated at breakfast. Having officiouslydeposited the gentleman's boots right and left at his feet, andthe lady's shoes right and left at hers, he backed towards the door.

'Boots,' said the gentleman.

'Sir,' said Sam, closing the door, and keeping his hand on theknob of the lock.'Do you know--what's a-name--Doctors' Commons?'

'Yes, Sir.'

'Where is it?'

'Paul's Churchyard, Sir; low archway on the carriage side,bookseller's at one corner, hot-el on the other, and two portersin the middle as touts for licences.'

'Touts for licences!' said the gentleman.

'Touts for licences,' replied Sam. 'Two coves in vhite aprons--touches their hats ven you walk in--"Licence, Sir, licence?"Queer sort, them, and their mas'rs, too, sir--Old Bailey Proctors--and no mistake.'

'What do they do?' inquired the gentleman.

'Do! You, Sir! That ain't the worst on it, neither. They putsthings into old gen'l'm'n's heads as they never dreamed of. Myfather, Sir, wos a coachman. A widower he wos, and fat enoughfor anything--uncommon fat, to be sure. His missus dies, andleaves him four hundred pound. Down he goes to the Commons,to see the lawyer and draw the blunt--very smart--top boots on--nosegay in his button-hole--broad-brimmed tile--green shawl--quite the gen'l'm'n. Goes through the archvay, thinking howhe should inwest the money--up comes the touter, touches hishat--"Licence, Sir, licence?"--"What's that?" says my father.--"Licence, Sir," says he.--"What licence?" says my father.--"Marriage licence," says the touter.--"Dash my veskit," says myfather, "I never thought o' that."--"I think you wants one, Sir,"says the touter. My father pulls up, and thinks a bit--"No," sayshe, "damme, I'm too old, b'sides, I'm a many sizes too large,"says he.--"Not a bit on it, Sir," says the touter.--"Think not?"says my father.--"I'm sure not," says he; "we married a gen'l'm'ntwice your size, last Monday."--"Did you, though?" said myfather.--"To be sure, we did," says the touter, "you're a babbyto him--this way, sir--this way!"--and sure enough my fatherwalks arter him, like a tame monkey behind a horgan, into a littleback office, vere a teller sat among dirty papers, and tin boxes,making believe he was busy. "Pray take a seat, vile I makes outthe affidavit, Sir," says the lawyer.--"Thank'ee, Sir," says myfather, and down he sat, and stared with all his eyes, and hismouth vide open, at the names on the boxes. "What's your name,Sir," says the lawyer.--"Tony Weller," says my father.--"Parish?"says the lawyer. "Belle Savage," says my father; for he stoppedthere wen he drove up, and he know'd nothing about parishes, hedidn't.--"And what's the lady's name?" says the lawyer. Myfather was struck all of a heap. "Blessed if I know," says he.--"Not know!" says the lawyer.--"No more nor you do," says myfather; "can't I put that in arterwards?"--"Impossible!" saysthe lawyer.--"Wery well," says my father, after he'd thought amoment, "put down Mrs. Clarke."--"What Clarke?" says thelawyer, dipping his pen in the ink.--"Susan Clarke, Markis o'Granby, Dorking," says my father; "she'll have me, if I ask. Ides-say--I never said nothing to her, but she'll have me, I know."The licence was made out, and she DID have him, and what's moreshe's got him now; and I never had any of the four hundredpound, worse luck. Beg your pardon, sir,' said Sam, when he hadconcluded, 'but wen I gets on this here grievance, I runs on like anew barrow with the wheel greased.' Having said which, andhaving paused for an instant to see whether he was wanted foranything more, Sam left the room.

'Half-past nine--just the time--off at once;' said the gentleman,whom we need hardly introduce as Mr. Jingle.

'Time--for what?' said the spinster aunt coquettishly.

'Licence, dearest of angels--give notice at the church--call youmine, to-morrow'--said Mr. Jingle, and he squeezed the spinsteraunt's hand.

'The licence!' said Rachael, blushing.

'The licence,' repeated Mr. Jingle--'In hurry, post-haste for a licence,In hurry, ding dong I come back.'

'How you run on,' said Rachael.

'Run on--nothing to the hours, days, weeks, months, years,when we're united--run on--they'll fly on--bolt--mizzle--steam-engine--thousand-horse power--nothing to it.'

'Can't--can't we be married before to-morrow morning?'inquired Rachael.'Impossible--can't be--notice at the church--leave the licenceto-day--ceremony come off to-morrow.''I am so terrified, lest my brother should discover us!' said Rachael.

'Discover--nonsense--too much shaken by the break-down--besides--extreme caution--gave up the post-chaise--walked on--took a hackney-coach--came to the Borough--last place in theworld that he'd look in--ha! ha!--capital notion that--very.'

'Don't be long,' said the spinster affectionately, as Mr. Jinglestuck the pinched-up hat on his head.

'Long away from you?--Cruel charmer;' and Mr. Jingleskipped playfully up to the spinster aunt, imprinted a chaste kissupon her lips, and danced out of the room.

'Dear man!' said the spinster, as the door closed after him.

'Rum old girl,' said Mr. Jingle, as he walked down the passage.

It is painful to reflect upon the perfidy of our species; and wewill not, therefore, pursue the thread of Mr. Jingle's meditations,as he wended his way to Doctors' Commons. It will be sufficientfor our purpose to relate, that escaping the snares of the dragonsin white aprons, who guard the entrance to that enchantedregion, he reached the vicar-general's office in safety and havingprocured a highly flattering address on parchment, from theArchbishop of Canterbury, to his 'trusty and well-beloved AlfredJingle and Rachael Wardle, greeting,' he carefully deposited themystic document in his pocket, and retraced his steps in triumphto the Borough.

He was yet on his way to the White Hart, when two plumpgentleman and one thin one entered the yard, and looked roundin search of some authorised person of whom they could make afew inquiries. Mr. Samuel Weller happened to be at that momentengaged in burnishing a pair of painted tops, the personalproperty of a farmer who was refreshing himself with a slightlunch of two or three pounds of cold beef and a pot or two ofporter, after the fatigues of the Borough market; and to him thethin gentleman straightway advanced.

'My friend,' said the thin gentleman.

'You're one o' the adwice gratis order,' thought Sam, 'or youwouldn't be so wery fond o' me all at once.' But he only said--'Well, Sir.'

'My friend,' said the thin gentleman, with a conciliatory hem--'have you got many people stopping here now? Pretty busy. Eh?'

Sam stole a look at the inquirer. He was a little high-driedman, with a dark squeezed-up face, and small, restless, blackeyes, that kept winking and twinkling on each side of his littleinquisitive nose, as if they were playing a perpetual game ofpeep-bo with that feature. He was dressed all in black, with bootsas shiny as his eyes, a low white neckcloth, and a clean shirt witha frill to it. A gold watch-chain, and seals, depended from his fob.He carried his black kid gloves IN his hands, and not ON them;and as he spoke, thrust his wrists beneath his coat tails, with theair of a man who was in the habit of propounding some regular posers.

'Pretty busy, eh?' said the little man.

'Oh, wery well, Sir,' replied Sam, 'we shan't be bankrupts, andwe shan't make our fort'ns. We eats our biled mutton withoutcapers, and don't care for horse-radish ven ve can get beef.'

'Ah,' said the little man, 'you're a wag, ain't you?'

'My eldest brother was troubled with that complaint,' saidSam; 'it may be catching--I used to sleep with him.'

'This is a curious old house of yours,' said the little man,looking round him.

'If you'd sent word you was a-coming, we'd ha' had it repaired;'replied the imperturbable Sam.

The little man seemed rather baffled by these several repulses,and a short consultation took place between him and the twoplump gentlemen. At its conclusion, the little man took a pinchof snuff from an oblong silver box, and was apparently on thepoint of renewing the conversation, when one of the plumpgentlemen, who in addition to a benevolent countenance,possessed a pair of spectacles, and a pair of black gaiters,interfered--

'The fact of the matter is,' said the benevolent gentleman, 'thatmy friend here (pointing to the other plump gentleman) will giveyou half a guinea, if you'll answer one or two--'

'Now, my dear sir--my dear Sir,' said the little man, 'pray,allow me--my dear Sir, the very first principle to be observed inthese cases, is this: if you place the matter in the hands of aprofessional man, you must in no way interfere in the progress ofthe business; you must repose implicit confidence in him. Really,Mr.--' He turned to the other plump gentleman, and said, 'Iforget your friend's name.'

'Pickwick,' said Mr. Wardle, for it was no other than that jollypersonage.

'Ah, Pickwick--really Mr. Pickwick, my dear Sir, excuse me--I shall be happy to receive any private suggestions of yours, asAMICUS CURIAE, but you must see the impropriety of your interferingwith my conduct in this case, with such an AD CAPTANDUM argument as theoffer of half a guinea. Really, my dear Sir, really;' and the littleman took an argumentative pinch of snuff, and looked very profound.

'My only wish, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'was to bring this veryunpleasant matter to as speedy a close as possible.'

'Quite right--quite right,' said the little man.

'With which view,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'I made use of theargument which my experience of men has taught me is the mostlikely to succeed in any case.'

'Ay, ay,' said the little man, 'very good, very good, indeed; butyou should have suggested it to me. My dear sir, I'm quite certainyou cannot be ignorant of the extent of confidence which must beplaced in professional men. If any authority can be necessary onsuch a point, my dear sir, let me refer you to the well-known casein Barnwell and--'

'Never mind George Barnwell,' interrupted Sam, who hadremained a wondering listener during this short colloquy;'everybody knows what sort of a case his was, tho' it's alwaysbeen my opinion, mind you, that the young 'ooman deservedscragging a precious sight more than he did. Hows'ever, that'sneither here nor there. You want me to accept of half a guinea.Wery well, I'm agreeable: I can't say no fairer than that, can I,sir?' (Mr. Pickwick smiled.) Then the next question is, what thedevil do you want with me, as the man said, wen he see the ghost?'

'We want to know--' said Mr. Wardle.

'Now, my dear sir--my dear sir,' interposed the busy little man.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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