Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 26)

Mr. Pickwick, with his usual foresight and sagacity, had chosena peculiarly desirable moment for his visit to the borough. Neverwas such a contest known. The Honourable Samuel Slumkey, ofSlumkey Hall, was the Blue candidate; and Horatio Fizkin,Esq., of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, had been prevailed uponby his friends to stand forward on the Buff interest. The GAZETTEwarned the electors of Eatanswill that the eyes not only ofEngland, but of the whole civilised world, were upon them; andthe INDEPENDENT imperatively demanded to know, whether theconstituency of Eatanswill were the grand fellows they had alwaystaken them for, or base and servile tools, undeserving alike ofthe name of Englishmen and the blessings of freedom. Never hadsuch a commotion agitated the town before.

It was late in the evening when Mr. Pickwick and hiscompanions, assisted by Sam, dismounted from the roof of theEatanswill coach. Large blue silk flags were flying from thewindows of the Town Arms Inn, and bills were posted in everysash, intimating, in gigantic letters, that the Honourable SamuelSlumkey's committee sat there daily. A crowd of idlers wereassembled in the road, looking at a hoarse man in the balcony,who was apparently talking himself very red in the face in Mr.Slumkey's behalf; but the force and point of whose argumentswere somewhat impaired by the perpetual beating of four largedrums which Mr. Fizkin's committee had stationed at the streetcorner. There was a busy little man beside him, though, whotook off his hat at intervals and motioned to the people to cheer,which they regularly did, most enthusiastically; and as the red-faced gentleman went on talking till he was redder in the facethan ever, it seemed to answer his purpose quite as well as ifanybody had heard him.

The Pickwickians had no sooner dismounted than they weresurrounded by a branch mob of the honest and independent, whoforthwith set up three deafening cheers, which being respondedto by the main body (for it's not at all necessary for a crowd toknow what they are cheering about), swelled into a tremendousroar of triumph, which stopped even the red-faced man in the balcony.

'Hurrah!' shouted the mob, in conclusion.

'One cheer more,' screamed the little fugleman in the balcony,and out shouted the mob again, as if lungs were cast-iron, withsteel works.

'Slumkey for ever!' roared the honest and independent.

'Slumkey for ever!' echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat.'No Fizkin!' roared the crowd.

'Certainly not!' shouted Mr. Pickwick.'Hurrah!' And then there was another roaring, like that of awhole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for thecold meat.

'Who is Slumkey?'whispered Mr. Tupman.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone. 'Hush.Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions todo what the mob do.'

'But suppose there are two mobs?' suggested Mr. Snodgrass.

'Shout with the largest,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

Volumes could not have said more.

They entered the house, the crowd opening right and left to letthem pass, and cheering vociferously. The first object ofconsideration was to secure quarters for the night.

'Can we have beds here?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, summoningthe waiter.

'Don't know, Sir,' replied the man; 'afraid we're full, sir--I'llinquire, Sir.' Away he went for that purpose, and presentlyreturned, to ask whether the gentleman were 'Blue.'

As neither Mr. Pickwick nor his companions took any vitalinterest in the cause of either candidate, the question wasrather a difficult one to answer. In this dilemma Mr. Pickwickbethought himself of his new friend, Mr. Perker.

'Do you know a gentleman of the name of Perker?' inquiredMr. Pickwick.

'Certainly, Sir; Honourable Mr. Samuel Slumkey's agent.'

'He is Blue, I think?'

'Oh, yes, Sir.'

'Then WE are Blue,' said Mr. Pickwick; but observing that theman looked rather doubtful at this accommodating announcement,he gave him his card, and desired him to present it toMr. Perker forthwith, if he should happen to be in the house.The waiter retired; and reappearing almost immediately with arequest that Mr. Pickwick would follow him, led the way to alarge room on the first floor, where, seated at a long tablecovered with books and papers, was Mr. Perker.

'Ah--ah, my dear Sir,' said the little man, advancing to meethim; 'very happy to see you, my dear Sir, very. Pray sit down.So you have carried your intention into effect. You have comedown here to see an election--eh?'Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

'Spirited contest, my dear sir,' said the little man.

'I'm delighted to hear it,' said Mr. Pickwick, rubbing hishands. 'I like to see sturdy patriotism, on whatever side it iscalled forth--and so it's a spirited contest?'

'Oh, yes,' said the little man, 'very much so indeed. We haveopened all the public-houses in the place, and left our adversarynothing but the beer-shops-masterly stroke of policy that, mydear Sir, eh?' The little man smiled complacently, and took alarge pinch of snuff.

'And what are the probabilities as to the result of the contest?'inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Why, doubtful, my dear Sir; rather doubtful as yet,' repliedthe little man. 'Fizkin's people have got three-and-thirty votersin the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.'

'In the coach-house!' said Mr. Pickwick, considerably astonishedby this second stroke of policy.

'They keep 'em locked up there till they want 'em,' resumedthe little man. 'The effect of that is, you see, to prevent ourgetting at them; and even if we could, it would be of no use, forthey keep them very drunk on purpose. Smart fellow Fizkin'sagent--very smart fellow indeed.'

Mr. Pickwick stared, but said nothing.

'We are pretty confident, though,' said Mr. Perker, sinkinghis voice almost to a whisper. 'We had a little tea-party here, lastnight--five-and-forty women, my dear sir--and gave every oneof 'em a green parasol when she went away.'

'A parasol!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at sevenand sixpence a-piece. All women like finery--extraordinary theeffect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half theirbrothers--beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thinghollow. My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine,you can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, withoutencountering half a dozen green parasols.'

Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, whichwas only checked by the entrance of a third party.

This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclinedto baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blendedwith a look of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in along brown surtout, with a black cloth waistcoat, and drabtrousers. A double eyeglass dangled at his waistcoat; and on hishead he wore a very low-crowned hat with a broad brim.The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pott,the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. After a few preliminaryremarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said withsolemnity--

'This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?'

'I believe it does,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'To which I have reason to know,' said Pott, looking towardsMr. Perker for corroboration--'to which I have reason to knowthat my article of last Saturday in some degree contributed.'

'Not the least doubt of it,' said the little man.

'The press is a mighty engine, sir,' said Pott.

Mr. Pickwick yielded his fullest assent to the proposition.

'But I trust, sir,' said Pott, 'that I have never abused theenormous power I wield. I trust, sir, that I have never pointed thenoble instrument which is placed in my hands, against the sacredbosom of private life, or the tender breast of individual reputation;I trust, sir, that I have devoted my energies to--to endeavours--humble they may be, humble I know they are--toinstil those principles of--which--are--'

Here the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, appearing to ramble,Mr. Pickwick came to his relief, and said--


'And what, Sir,' said Pott--'what, Sir, let me ask you as animpartial man, is the state of the public mind in London, withreference to my contest with the INDEPENDENT?'

'Greatly excited, no doubt,' interposed Mr. Perker, with alook of slyness which was very likely accidental.

'The contest,' said Pott, 'shall be prolonged so long as I havehealth and strength, and that portion of talent with which I amgifted. From that contest, Sir, although it may unsettle men'sminds and excite their feelings, and render them incapable forthe discharge of the everyday duties of ordinary life; from thatcontest, sir, I will never shrink, till I have set my heel upon theEatanswill INDEPENDENT. I wish the people of London, and thepeople of this country to know, sir, that they may rely upon me--that I will not desert them, that I am resolved to stand by them,Sir, to the last.''Your conduct is most noble, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; and hegrasped the hand of the magnanimous Pott.'You are, sir, I perceive, a man of sense and talent,' said Mr.Pott, almost breathless with the vehemence of his patrioticdeclaration. 'I am most happy, sir, to make the acquaintance ofsuch a man.'

'And I,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'feel deeply honoured by thisexpression of your opinion. Allow me, sir, to introduce you tomy fellow-travellers, the other corresponding members of theclub I am proud to have founded.'

'I shall be delighted,' said Mr. Pott.

Mr. Pickwick withdrew, and returning with his friends,presented them in due form to the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE.

'Now, my dear Pott,' said little Mr. Perker, 'the question is,what are we to do with our friends here?'

'We can stop in this house, I suppose,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Not a spare bed in the house, my dear sir--not a single bed.'

'Extremely awkward,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Very,' said his fellow-voyagers.

'I have an idea upon this subject,' said Mr. Pott, 'which Ithink may be very successfully adopted. They have two beds atthe Peacock, and I can boldly say, on behalf of Mrs. Pott, thatshe will be delighted to accommodate Mr. Pickwick and anyone of his friends, if the other two gentlemen and their servantdo not object to shifting, as they best can, at the Peacock.'

After repeated pressings on the part of Mr. Pott, and repeatedprotestations on that of Mr. Pickwick that he could not think ofincommoding or troubling his amiable wife, it was decided thatit was the only feasible arrangement that could be made. So itWAS made; and after dinner together at the Town Arms, thefriends separated, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass repairing tothe Peacock, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle proceeding tothe mansion of Mr. Pott; it having been previously arrangedthat they should all reassemble at the Town Arms in the morning,and accompany the Honourable Samuel Slumkey's procession tothe place of nomination.

Mr. Pott's domestic circle was limited to himself and hiswife. All men whom mighty genius has raised to a proud eminencein the world, have usually some little weakness whichappears the more conspicuous from the contrast it presents totheir general character. If Mr. Pott had a weakness, it was,perhaps, that he was rather too submissive to the somewhatcontemptuous control and sway of his wife. We do not feeljustified in laying any particular stress upon the fact, becauseon the present occasion all Mrs. Pott's most winning wayswere brought into requisition to receive the two gentlemen.

'My dear,' said Mr. Pott, 'Mr. Pickwick--Mr. Pickwick of London.'

Mrs. Pott received Mr. Pickwick's paternal grasp of the handwith enchanting sweetness; and Mr. Winkle, who had not beenannounced at all, sidled and bowed, unnoticed, in an obscure corner.

'P. my dear'--said Mrs. Pott.

'My life,' said Mr. Pott.

'Pray introduce the other gentleman.'

'I beg a thousand pardons,' said Mr. Pott. 'Permit me, Mrs.Pott, Mr.--'

'Winkle,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Winkle,' echoed Mr. Pott; and the ceremony of introductionwas complete.

'We owe you many apologies, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'fordisturbing your domestic arrangements at so short a notice.'

'I beg you won't mention it, sir,' replied the feminine Pott,with vivacity. 'It is a high treat to me, I assure you, to see anynew faces; living as I do, from day to day, and week to week, inthis dull place, and seeing nobody.'

'Nobody, my dear!' exclaimed Mr. Pott archly.

'Nobody but you,' retorted Mrs. Pott, with asperity.

'You see, Mr. Pickwick,' said the host in explanation of hiswife's lament, 'that we are in some measure cut off from manyenjoyments and pleasures of which we might otherwise partake.My public station, as editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, theposition which that paper holds in the country, my constantimmersion in the vortex of politics--'

'P. my dear--' interposed Mrs. Pott.

'My life--' said the editor.

'I wish, my dear, you would endeavour to find some topic ofconversation in which these gentlemen might take some rationalinterest.'

'But, my love,' said Mr. Pott, with great humility, 'Mr.Pickwick does take an interest in it.'

'It's well for him if he can,' said Mrs. Pott emphatically; 'Iam wearied out of my life with your politics, and quarrels withthe INDEPENDENT, and nonsense. I am quite astonished, P., at yourmaking such an exhibition of your absurdity.'

'But, my dear--' said Mr. Pott.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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