Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 41)

'With great pleasure,' said Mr. Pickwick; the satisfaction ofwhose countenance, after drinking it, bore testimony to thesincerity of the reply.

'Good,' said Mr. Pickwick, smacking his lips. 'Very good. I'lltake another. Cool; very cool. Come, gentlemen,' continuedMr. Pickwick, still retaining his hold upon the jar, 'a toast. Ourfriends at Dingley Dell.'

The toast was drunk with loud acclamations.

'I'll tell you what I shall do, to get up my shooting again,' saidMr. Winkle, who was eating bread and ham with a pocket-knife.'I'll put a stuffed partridge on the top of a post, and practise at it,beginning at a short distance, and lengthening it by degrees. Iunderstand it's capital practice.'

'I know a gen'l'man, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, 'as did that, andbegun at two yards; but he never tried it on agin; for he blowedthe bird right clean away at the first fire, and nobody ever seed afeather on him arterwards.'

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'Have the goodness to reserve your anecdotes till they arecalled for.'

'Cert'nly, sir.'

Here Mr. Weller winked the eye which was not concealed bythe beer-can he was raising to his lips, with such exquisitefacetiousness, that the two boys went into spontaneous convulsions,and even the long man condescended to smile.

'Well, that certainly is most capital cold punch,' said Mr.Pickwick, looking earnestly at the stone bottle; 'and the day isextremely warm, and-- Tupman, my dear friend, a glass of punch?'

'With the greatest delight,' replied Mr. Tupman; and havingdrank that glass, Mr. Pickwick took another, just to see whetherthere was any orange peel in the punch, because orange peelalways disagreed with him; and finding that there was not, Mr.Pickwick took another glass to the health of their absent friend,and then felt himself imperatively called upon to propose anotherin honour of the punch-compounder, unknown.

This constant succession of glasses produced considerableeffect upon Mr. Pickwick; his countenance beamed with the mostsunny smiles, laughter played around his lips, and good-humouredmerriment twinkled in his eye. Yielding by degrees to the influenceof the exciting liquid, rendered more so by the heat, Mr. Pickwickexpressed a strong desire to recollect a song which he had heard inhis infancy, and the attempt proving abortive, sought to stimulatehis memory with more glasses of punch, which appeared to have quitea contrary effect; for, from forgetting the words of the song, he beganto forget how to articulate any words at all; and finally, after risingto his legs to address the company in an eloquent speech, he fell intothe barrow, and fast asleep, simultaneously.

The basket having been repacked, and it being found perfectlyimpossible to awaken Mr. Pickwick from his torpor, somediscussion took place whether it would be better for Mr. Weller towheel his master back again, or to leave him where he was, untilthey should all be ready to return. The latter course was atlength decided on; and as the further expedition was not toexceed an hour's duration, and as Mr. Weller begged very hardto be one of the party, it was determined to leave Mr. Pickwickasleep in the barrow, and to call for him on their return. Soaway they went, leaving Mr. Pickwick snoring most comfortablyin the shade.

That Mr. Pickwick would have continued to snore in the shadeuntil his friends came back, or, in default thereof, until the shadesof evening had fallen on the landscape, there appears no reasonablecause to doubt; always supposing that he had been sufferedto remain there in peace. But he was NOT suffered to remain therein peace. And this was what prevented him.

Captain Boldwig was a little fierce man in a stiff black neckerchiefand blue surtout, who, when he did condescend to walkabout his property, did it in company with a thick rattan stickwith a brass ferrule, and a gardener and sub-gardener with meekfaces, to whom (the gardeners, not the stick) Captain Boldwiggave his orders with all due grandeur and ferocity; for CaptainBoldwig's wife's sister had married a marquis, and the captain'shouse was a villa, and his land 'grounds,' and it was all very high,and mighty, and great.

Mr. Pickwick had not been asleep half an hour when littleCaptain Boldwig, followed by the two gardeners, came stridingalong as fast as his size and importance would let him; and whenhe came near the oak tree, Captain Boldwig paused and drew along breath, and looked at the prospect as if he thought theprospect ought to be highly gratified at having him to take noticeof it; and then he struck the ground emphatically with his stick,and summoned the head-gardener.

'Hunt,' said Captain Boldwig.

'Yes, Sir,' said the gardener.

'Roll this place to-morrow morning--do you hear, Hunt?'

'Yes, Sir.'

'And take care that you keep this place in good order--do youhear, Hunt?'

'Yes, Sir.'

'And remind me to have a board done about trespassers, andspring guns, and all that sort of thing, to keep the commonpeople out. Do you hear, Hunt; do you hear?'

'I'll not forget it, Sir.'

'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said the other man, advancing, withhis hand to his hat.

'Well, Wilkins, what's the matter with you?' said Captain Boldwig.

'I beg your pardon, sir--but I think there have been trespassershere to-day.'

'Ha!' said the captain, scowling around him.

'Yes, sir--they have been dining here, I think, sir.'

'Why, damn their audacity, so they have,' said CaptainBoldwig, as the crumbs and fragments that were strewn upon thegrass met his eye. 'They have actually been devouring their foodhere. I wish I had the vagabonds here!' said the captain, clenchingthe thick stick.

'I wish I had the vagabonds here,' said the captain wrathfully.

'Beg your pardon, sir,' said Wilkins, 'but--'

'But what? Eh?' roared the captain; and following the timidglance of Wilkins, his eyes encountered the wheel-barrow andMr. Pickwick.

'Who are you, you rascal?' said the captain, administeringseveral pokes to Mr. Pickwick's body with the thick stick.'What's your name?'

'Cold punch,' murmured Mr. Pickwick, as he sank to sleep again.

'What?' demanded Captain Boldwig.

No reply.

'What did he say his name was?' asked the captain.

'Punch, I think, sir,' replied Wilkins.

'That's his impudence--that's his confounded impudence,' saidCaptain Boldwig. 'He's only feigning to be asleep now,' said thecaptain, in a high passion. 'He's drunk; he's a drunken plebeian.Wheel him away, Wilkins, wheel him away directly.''Where shall I wheel him to, sir?' inquired Wilkins, withgreat timidity.

'Wheel him to the devil,' replied Captain Boldwig.

'Very well, sir,' said Wilkins.

'Stay,' said the captain.

Wilkins stopped accordingly.

'Wheel him,' said the captain--'wheel him to the pound; andlet us see whether he calls himself Punch when he comes tohimself. He shall not bully me--he shall not bully me. Wheel him away.'

Away Mr. Pickwick was wheeled in compliance with thisimperious mandate; and the great Captain Boldwig, swellingwith indignation, proceeded on his walk.

Inexpressible was the astonishment of the little party whenthey returned, to find that Mr. Pickwick had disappeared, andtaken the wheel-barrow with him. It was the most mysterious andunaccountable thing that was ever heard of For a lame man tohave got upon his legs without any previous notice, and walkedoff, would have been most extraordinary; but when it came to hiswheeling a heavy barrow before him, by way of amusement, itgrew positively miraculous. They searched every nook andcorner round, together and separately; they shouted, whistled,laughed, called--and all with the same result. Mr. Pickwick wasnot to be found. After some hours of fruitless search, theyarrived at the unwelcome conclusion that they must go homewithout him.

Meanwhile Mr. Pickwick had been wheeled to the pound, andsafely deposited therein, fast asleep in the wheel-barrow, to theimmeasurable delight and satisfaction not only of all the boys inthe village, but three-fourths of the whole population, who hadgathered round, in expectation of his waking. If their mostintense gratification had been awakened by seeing him wheeledin, how many hundredfold was their joy increased when, after afew indistinct cries of 'Sam!' he sat up in the barrow, and gazedwith indescribable astonishment on the faces before him.

A general shout was of course the signal of his having woke up;and his involuntary inquiry of 'What's the matter?' occasionedanother, louder than the first, if possible.

'Here's a game!' roared the populace.

'Where am I?' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

'In the pound,' replied the mob.

'How came I here? What was I doing? Where was I brought from?''Boldwig! Captain Boldwig!' was the only reply.

'Let me out,' cried Mr. Pickwick. 'Where's my servant?Where are my friends?'

'You ain't got no friends. Hurrah!' Then there came a turnip,then a potato, and then an egg; with a few other little tokens ofthe playful disposition of the many-headed.

How long this scene might have lasted, or how much Mr.Pickwick might have suffered, no one can tell, had not a carriage,which was driving swiftly by, suddenly pulled up, from whencethere descended old Wardle and Sam Weller, the former ofwhom, in far less time than it takes to write it, if not to read it,had made his way to Mr. Pickwick's side, and placed him in thevehicle, just as the latter had concluded the third and last roundof a single combat with the town-beadle.

'Run to the justice's!' cried a dozen voices.

'Ah, run avay,' said Mr. Weller, jumping up on the box. 'Givemy compliments--Mr. Veller's compliments--to the justice, andtell him I've spiled his beadle, and that, if he'll swear in a new 'un,I'll come back again to-morrow and spile him. Drive on, old feller.'

'I'll give directions for the commencement of an action for falseimprisonment against this Captain Boldwig, directly I get toLondon,' said Mr. Pickwick, as soon as the carriage turned out ofthe town.

'We were trespassing, it seems,' said Wardle.

'I don't care,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I'll bring the action.'

'No, you won't,' said Wardle.

'I will, by--' But as there was a humorous expression inWardle's face, Mr. Pickwick checked himself, and said, 'Whynot?'

'Because,' said old Wardle, half-bursting with laughter,'because they might turn on some of us, and say we had taken toomuch cold punch.'

Do what he would, a smile would come into Mr. Pickwick'sface; the smile extended into a laugh; the laugh into a roar; theroar became general. So, to keep up their good-humour, theystopped at the first roadside tavern they came to, and ordered aglass of brandy-and-water all round, with a magnum of extrastrength for Mr. Samuel Weller.


In the ground-floor front of a dingy house, at the very farthest endof Freeman's Court, Cornhill, sat the four clerks of Messrs. Dodson& Fogg, two of his Majesty's attorneys of the courts of King's Benchand Common Pleas at Westminster, and solicitors of the High Court ofChancery--the aforesaid clerks catching as favourable glimpses ofheaven's light and heaven's sun, in the course of their dailylabours, as a man might hope to do, were he placed at the bottomof a reasonably deep well; and without the opportunity of perceivingthe stars in the day-time, which the latter secluded situation affords.

The clerks' office of Messrs. Dodson & Fogg was a dark,mouldy, earthy-smelling room, with a high wainscotted partitionto screen the clerks from the vulgar gaze, a couple of old woodenchairs, a very loud-ticking clock, an almanac, an umbrella-stand,a row of hat-pegs, and a few shelves, on which were depositedseveral ticketed bundles of dirty papers, some old deal boxes withpaper labels, and sundry decayed stone ink bottles of variousshapes and sizes. There was a glass door leading into the passagewhich formed the entrance to the court, and on the outer side ofthis glass door, Mr. Pickwick, closely followed by Sam Weller,presented himself on the Friday morning succeeding the occurrenceof which a faithful narration is given in the last chapter.

'Come in, can't you!' cried a voice from behind the partition,in reply to Mr. Pickwick's gentle tap at the door. And Mr.Pickwick and Sam entered accordingly.

'Mr. Dodson or Mr. Fogg at home, sir?' inquired Mr. Pickwick,gently, advancing, hat in hand, towards the partition.

'Mr. Dodson ain't at home, and Mr. Fogg's particularlyengaged,' replied the voice; and at the same time the head towhich the voice belonged, with a pen behind its ear, looked overthe partition, and at Mr. Pickwick.

it was a ragged head, the sandy hair of which, scrupulouslyparted on one side, and flattened down with pomatum, wastwisted into little semi-circular tails round a flat face ornamentedwith a pair of small eyes, and garnished with a very dirty shirtcollar, and a rusty black stock.

'Mr. Dodson ain't at home, and Mr. Fogg's particularlyengaged,' said the man to whom the head belonged.

'When will Mr. Dodson be back, sir?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.'Can't say.'

'Will it be long before Mr. Fogg is disengaged, Sir?'

'Don't know.'

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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