Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 55)

'Oh, pa!' remonstrated Miss Nupkins. And here she sobbed too.

'Isn't it too much, when he has brought all this disgrace andridicule upon us, to taunt me with being the cause of it?'exclaimed Mrs. Nupkins.

'How can we ever show ourselves in society!' said Miss Nupkins.

'How can we face the Porkenhams?' cried Mrs. Nupkins.

'Or the Griggs!' cried Miss Nupkins.'Or the Slummintowkens!' cried Mrs. Nupkins. 'But what doesyour papa care! What is it to HIM!' At this dreadful reflection,Mrs. Nupkins wept mental anguish, and Miss Nupkins followedon the same side.

Mrs. Nupkins's tears continued to gush forth, with greatvelocity, until she had gained a little time to think the matterover; when she decided, in her own mind, that the best thing todo would be to ask Mr. Pickwick and his friends to remain untilthe captain's arrival, and then to give Mr. Pickwick the opportunityhe sought. If it appeared that he had spoken truly, thecaptain could be turned out of the house without noising thematter abroad, and they could easily account to the Porkenhamsfor his disappearance, by saying that he had been appointed,through the Court influence of his family, to the governor-generalship of Sierra Leone, of Saugur Point, or any other ofthose salubrious climates which enchant Europeans so much, thatwhen they once get there, they can hardly ever prevail uponthemselves to come back again.

When Mrs. Nupkins dried up her tears, Miss Nupkins dried uphers, and Mr. Nupkins was very glad to settle the matter asMrs. Nupkins had proposed. So Mr. Pickwick and his friends,having washed off all marks of their late encounter, were introducedto the ladies, and soon afterwards to their dinner; andMr. Weller, whom the magistrate, with his peculiar sagacity, haddiscovered in half an hour to be one of the finest fellows alive,was consigned to the care and guardianship of Mr. Muzzle,who was specially enjoined to take him below, and make muchof him.

'How de do, sir?' said Mr. Muzzle, as he conducted Mr. Wellerdown the kitchen stairs.

'Why, no considerable change has taken place in the state ofmy system, since I see you cocked up behind your governor'schair in the parlour, a little vile ago,' replied Sam.

'You will excuse my not taking more notice of you then,' saidMr. Muzzle. 'You see, master hadn't introduced us, then. Lord,how fond he is of you, Mr. Weller, to be sure!'

'Ah!' said Sam, 'what a pleasant chap he is!'

'Ain't he?'replied Mr. Muzzle.

'So much humour,' said Sam.

'And such a man to speak,' said Mr. Muzzle. 'How his ideasflow, don't they?'

'Wonderful,' replied Sam; 'they comes a-pouring out, knockingeach other's heads so fast, that they seems to stun one another;you hardly know what he's arter, do you?''That's the great merit of his style of speaking,' rejoinedMr. Muzzle. 'Take care of the last step, Mr. Weller. Would youlike to wash your hands, sir, before we join the ladies'! Here's asink, with the water laid on, Sir, and a clean jack towel behindthe door.'

'Ah! perhaps I may as well have a rinse,' replied Mr. Weller,applying plenty of yellow soap to the towel, and rubbing awaytill his face shone again. 'How many ladies are there?'

'Only two in our kitchen,' said Mr. Muzzle; 'cook and 'ouse-maid. We keep a boy to do the dirty work, and a gal besides, butthey dine in the wash'us.'

'Oh, they dines in the wash'us, do they?' said Mr. Weller.

'Yes,' replied Mr. Muzzle, 'we tried 'em at our table when theyfirst come, but we couldn't keep 'em. The gal's manners isdreadful vulgar; and the boy breathes so very hard while he'seating, that we found it impossible to sit at table with him.'

'Young grampus!' said Mr. Weller.

'Oh, dreadful,' rejoined Mr. Muzzle; 'but that is the worst ofcountry service, Mr. Weller; the juniors is always so very savage.This way, sir, if you please, this way.'

Preceding Mr. Weller, with the utmost politeness, Mr. Muzzleconducted him into the kitchen.

'Mary,' said Mr. Muzzle to the pretty servant-girl, 'this isMr. Weller; a gentleman as master has sent down, to be made ascomfortable as possible.'

'And your master's a knowin' hand, and has just sent me to theright place,' said Mr. Weller, with a glance of admiration atMary. 'If I wos master o' this here house, I should alvays find thematerials for comfort vere Mary wos.''Lor, Mr. Weller!' said Mary blushing.

'Well, I never!' ejaculated the cook.

'Bless me, cook, I forgot you,' said Mr. Muzzle. 'Mr. Weller,let me introduce you.'

'How are you, ma'am?' said Mr. Weller.'Wery glad to see you,indeed, and hope our acquaintance may be a long 'un, as thegen'l'm'n said to the fi' pun' note.'

When this ceremony of introduction had been gone through,the cook and Mary retired into the back kitchen to titter, for tenminutes; then returning, all giggles and blushes, they sat downto dinner.Mr. Weller's easy manners and conversational powers hadsuch irresistible influence with his new friends, that before thedinner was half over, they were on a footing of perfect intimacy,and in possession of a full account of the delinquency of Job Trotter.

'I never could a-bear that Job,' said Mary.

'No more you never ought to, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller.

'Why not?' inquired Mary.

''Cos ugliness and svindlin' never ought to be formiliar withelegance and wirtew,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Ought they, Mr. Muzzle?'

'Not by no means,' replied that gentleman.

Here Mary laughed, and said the cook had made her; and thecook laughed, and said she hadn't.

'I ha'n't got a glass,' said Mary.

'Drink with me, my dear,' said Mr. Weller. 'Put your lips tothis here tumbler, and then I can kiss you by deputy.'

'For shame, Mr. Weller!' said Mary.

'What's a shame, my dear?'

'Talkin' in that way.'

'Nonsense; it ain't no harm. It's natur; ain't it, cook?'

'Don't ask me, imperence,' replied the cook, in a high state ofdelight; and hereupon the cook and Mary laughed again, tillwhat between the beer, and the cold meat, and the laughtercombined, the latter young lady was brought to the verge ofchoking--an alarming crisis from which she was only recoveredby sundry pats on the back, and other necessary attentions, mostdelicately administered by Mr. Samuel Weller.In the midst of all this jollity and conviviality, a loud ring washeard at the garden gate, to which the young gentleman whotook his meals in the wash-house, immediately responded. Mr.Weller was in the height of his attentions to the pretty house-maid; Mr. Muzzle was busy doing the honours of the table; andthe cook had just paused to laugh, in the very act of raising ahuge morsel to her lips; when the kitchen door opened, and inwalked Mr. Job Trotter.

We have said in walked Mr. Job Trotter, but the statement isnot distinguished by our usual scrupulous adherence to fact. Thedoor opened and Mr. Trotter appeared. He would have walkedin, and was in the very act of doing so, indeed, when catchingsight of Mr. Weller, he involuntarily shrank back a pace or two,and stood gazing on the unexpected scene before him, perfectlymotionless with amazement and terror.

'Here he is!' said Sam, rising with great glee. 'Why we werethat wery moment a-speaking o' you. How are you? Where haveyou been? Come in.'

Laying his hand on the mulberry collar of the unresisting Job,Mr. Weller dragged him into the kitchen; and, locking the door,handed the key to Mr. Muzzle, who very coolly buttoned it upin a side pocket.

'Well, here's a game!' cried Sam. 'Only think o' my masterhavin' the pleasure o' meeting yourn upstairs, and me havin' thejoy o' meetin' you down here. How are you gettin' on, and how isthe chandlery bis'ness likely to do? Well, I am so glad to see you.How happy you look. It's quite a treat to see you; ain't it,Mr. Muzzle?'

'Quite,' said Mr. Muzzle.

'So cheerful he is!' said Sam.

'In such good spirits!' said Muzzle.'And so glad to see us--that makes it so much morecomfortable,' said Sam. 'Sit down; sit down.'

Mr. Trotter suffered himself to be forced into a chair by thefireside. He cast his small eyes, first on Mr. Weller, and then onMr. Muzzle, but said nothing.

'Well, now,' said Sam, 'afore these here ladies, I should jest liketo ask you, as a sort of curiosity, whether you don't consideryourself as nice and well-behaved a young gen'l'm'n, as ever useda pink check pocket-handkerchief, and the number four collection?'

'And as was ever a-going to be married to a cook,' said thatlady indignantly. 'The willin!'

'And leave off his evil ways, and set up in the chandlery linearterwards,' said the housemaid.

'Now, I'll tell you what it is, young man,' said Mr. Muzzlesolemnly, enraged at the last two allusions, 'this here lady(pointing to the cook) keeps company with me; and when youpresume, Sir, to talk of keeping chandlers' shops with her, youinjure me in one of the most delicatest points in which one mancan injure another. Do you understand that, Sir?'

Here Mr. Muzzle, who had a great notion of his eloquence, inwhich he imitated his master, paused for a reply.

But Mr. Trotter made no reply. So Mr. Muzzle proceeded in asolemn manner--

'It's very probable, sir, that you won't be wanted upstairs forseveral minutes, Sir, because MY master is at this momentparticularly engaged in settling the hash of YOUR master, Sir; andtherefore you'll have leisure, Sir, for a little private talk with me,Sir. Do you understand that, Sir?'

Mr. Muzzle again paused for a reply; and again Mr. Trotterdisappointed him.

'Well, then,' said Mr. Muzzle, 'I'm very sorry to have toexplain myself before ladies, but the urgency of the case will bemy excuse. The back kitchen's empty, Sir. If you will step in there,Sir, Mr. Weller will see fair, and we can have mutual satisfactiontill the bell rings. Follow me, Sir!'

As Mr. Muzzle uttered these words, he took a step or twotowards the door; and, by way of saving time, began to pull offhis coat as he walked along.

Now, the cook no sooner heard the concluding words of thisdesperate challenge, and saw Mr. Muzzle about to put it intoexecution, than she uttered a loud and piercing shriek; andrushing on Mr. Job Trotter, who rose from his chair on theinstant, tore and buffeted his large flat face, with an energypeculiar to excited females, and twining her hands in his longblack hair, tore therefrom about enough to make five or sixdozen of the very largest-sized mourning-rings. Having accomplishedthis feat with all the ardour which her devoted love forMr. Muzzle inspired, she staggered back; and being a lady ofvery excitable and delicate feelings, she instantly fell under thedresser, and fainted away.

At this moment, the bell rang.

'That's for you, Job Trotter,' said Sam; and before Mr. Trottercould offer remonstrance or reply--even before he had time tostanch the wounds inflicted by the insensible lady--Sam seizedone arm and Mr. Muzzle the other, and one pulling before, andthe other pushing behind, they conveyed him upstairs, and intothe parlour.

It was an impressive tableau. Alfred Jingle, Esquire, aliasCaptain Fitz-Marshall, was standing near the door with his hatin his hand, and a smile on his face, wholly unmoved by his veryunpleasant situation. Confronting him, stood Mr. Pickwick, whohad evidently been inculcating some high moral lesson; for hisleft hand was beneath his coat tail, and his right extended in air,as was his wont when delivering himself of an impressive address.At a little distance, stood Mr. Tupman with indignant countenance,carefully held back by his two younger friends; at thefarther end of the room were Mr. Nupkins, Mrs. Nupkins, andMiss Nupkins, gloomily grand and savagely vexed.'What prevents me,' said Mr. Nupkins, with magisterialdignity, as Job was brought in--'what prevents me from detainingthese men as rogues and impostors? It is a foolish mercy. Whatprevents me?'

'Pride, old fellow, pride,' replied Jingle, quite at his ease.'Wouldn't do--no go--caught a captain, eh?--ha! ha! verygood--husband for daughter--biter bit--make it public--not forworlds--look stupid--very!'

'Wretch,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'we scorn your base insinuations.'

'I always hated him,' added Henrietta.

'Oh, of course,' said Jingle. 'Tall young man--old lover--Sidney Porkenham--rich--fine fellow--not so rich as captain,though, eh?--turn him away--off with him--anything forcaptain--nothing like captain anywhere--all the girls--ravingmad--eh, Job, eh?'

Here Mr. Jingle laughed very heartily; and Job, rubbing hishands with delight, uttered the first sound he had given vent tosince he entered the house--a low, noiseless chuckle, whichseemed to intimate that he enjoyed his laugh too much, to let anyof it escape in sound.'Mr. Nupkins,' said the elder lady,'this is not a fit conversationfor the servants to overhear. Let these wretches be removed.'

'Certainly, my dear,' Said Mr, Nupkins. 'Muzzle!'

'Your Worship.'

'Open the front door.'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Leave the house!' said Mr. Nupkins, waving his hand emphatically.

Jingle smiled, and moved towards the door.

'Stay!' said Mr. Pickwick.Jingle stopped.

'I might,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'have taken a much greaterrevenge for the treatment I have experienced at your hands, andthat of your hypocritical friend there.'

Job Trotter bowed with great politeness, and laid his handupon his heart.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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