Master Humphrey's Clock
Part 2 out of 3
gentleman, but came tripping along in the pleasantest manner
conceivable, avoiding the garden-roller and the borders of the beds
with inimitable dexterity, picking his way among the flower-pots,
and smiling with unspeakable good humour. Before he was half-way
up the walk he began to salute me; then I thought I knew him; but
when he came towards me with his hat in his hand, the sun shining
on his bald head, his bland face, his bright spectacles, his fawn-
coloured tights, and his black gaiters, - then my heart warmed
towards him, and I felt quite certain that it was Mr. Pickwick.
'My dear sir,' said that gentleman as I rose to receive him, 'pray
be seated. Pray sit down. Now, do not stand on my account. I
must insist upon it, really.' With these words Mr. Pickwick gently
pressed me down into my seat, and taking my hand in his, shook it
again and again with a warmth of manner perfectly irresistible. I
endeavoured to express in my welcome something of that heartiness
and pleasure which the sight of him awakened, and made him sit down
beside me. All this time he kept alternately releasing my hand and
grasping it again, and surveying me through his spectacles with
such a beaming countenance as I never till then beheld.
'You knew me directly!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'What a pleasure it is
to think that you knew me directly!'
I remarked that I had read his adventures very often, and his
features were quite familiar to me from the published portraits.
As I thought it a good opportunity of adverting to the
circumstance, I condoled with him upon the various libels on his
character which had found their way into print. Mr. Pickwick shook
his head, and for a moment looked very indignant, but smiling again
directly, added that no doubt I was acquainted with Cervantes's
introduction to the second part of Don Quixote, and that it fully
expressed his sentiments on the subject.
'But now,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'don't you wonder how I found you
'I shall never wonder, and, with your good leave, never know,' said
I, smiling in my turn. 'It is enough for me that you give me this
gratification. I have not the least desire that you should tell me
by what means I have obtained it.'
'You are very kind,' returned Mr. Pickwick, shaking me by the hand
again; 'you are so exactly what I expected! But for what
particular purpose do you think I have sought you, my dear sir?
Now what DO you think I have come for?'
Mr. Pickwick put this question as though he were persuaded that it
was morally impossible that I could by any means divine the deep
purpose of his visit, and that it must be hidden from all human
ken. Therefore, although I was rejoiced to think that I had
anticipated his drift, I feigned to be quite ignorant of it, and
after a brief consideration shook my head despairingly.
'What should you say,' said Mr. Pickwick, laying the forefinger of
his left hand upon my coat-sleeve, and looking at me with his head
thrown back, and a little on one side, - 'what should you say if I
confessed that after reading your account of yourself and your
little society, I had come here, a humble candidate for one of
those empty chairs?'
'I should say,' I returned, 'that I know of only one circumstance
which could still further endear that little society to me, and
that would be the associating with it my old friend, - for you must
let me call you so, - my old friend, Mr. Pickwick.'
As I made him this answer every feature of Mr. Pickwick's face
fused itself into one all-pervading expression of delight. After
shaking me heartily by both hands at once, he patted me gently on
the back, and then - I well understood why - coloured up to the
eyes, and hoped with great earnestness of manner that he had not
If he had, I would have been content that he should have repeated
the offence a hundred times rather than suppose so; but as he had
not, I had no difficulty in changing the subject by making an
inquiry which had been upon my lips twenty times already.
'You have not told me,' said I, 'anything about Sam Weller.'
'O! Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'is the same as ever. The same
true, faithful fellow that he ever was. What should I tell you
about Sam, my dear sir, except that he is more indispensable to my
happiness and comfort every day of my life?'
'And Mr. Weller senior?' said I.
'Old Mr. Weller,' returned Mr. Pickwick, 'is in no respect more
altered than Sam, unless it be that he is a little more opinionated
than he was formerly, and perhaps at times more talkative. He
spends a good deal of his time now in our neighbourhood, and has so
constituted himself a part of my bodyguard, that when I ask
permission for Sam to have a seat in your kitchen on clock nights
(supposing your three friends think me worthy to fill one of the
chairs), I am afraid I must often include Mr. Weller too.'
I very readily pledged myself to give both Sam and his father a
free admission to my house at all hours and seasons, and this point
settled, we fell into a lengthy conversation which was carried on
with as little reserve on both sides as if we had been intimate
friends from our youth, and which conveyed to me the comfortable
assurance that Mr. Pickwick's buoyancy of spirit, and indeed all
his old cheerful characteristics, were wholly unimpaired. As he
had spoken of the consent of my friends as being yet in abeyance, I
repeatedly assured him that his proposal was certain to receive
their most joyful sanction, and several times entreated that he
would give me leave to introduce him to Jack Redburn and Mr. Miles
(who were near at hand) without further ceremony.
To this proposal, however, Mr. Pickwick's delicacy would by no
means allow him to accede, for he urged that his eligibility must
be formally discussed, and that, until this had been done, he could
not think of obtruding himself further. The utmost I could obtain
from him was a promise that he would attend upon our next night of
meeting, that I might have the pleasure of presenting him
immediately on his election.
Mr. Pickwick, having with many blushes placed in my hands a small
roll of paper, which he termed his 'qualification,' put a great
many questions to me touching my friends, and particularly Jack
Redburn, whom he repeatedly termed 'a fine fellow,' and in whose
favour I could see he was strongly predisposed. When I had
satisfied him on these points, I took him up into my room, that he
might make acquaintance with the old chamber which is our place of
'And this,' said Mr. Pickwick, stopping short, 'is the clock! Dear
me! And this is really the old clock!'
I thought he would never have come away from it. After advancing
towards it softly, and laying his hand upon it with as much respect
and as many smiling looks as if it were alive, he set himself to
consider it in every possible direction, now mounting on a chair to
look at the top, now going down upon his knees to examine the
bottom, now surveying the sides with his spectacles almost touching
the case, and now trying to peep between it and the wall to get a
slight view of the back. Then he would retire a pace or two and
look up at the dial to see it go, and then draw near again and
stand with his head on one side to hear it tick: never failing to
glance towards me at intervals of a few seconds each, and nod his
head with such complacent gratification as I am quite unable to
describe. His admiration was not confined to the clock either, but
extended itself to every article in the room; and really, when he
had gone through them every one, and at last sat himself down in
all the six chairs, one after another, to try how they felt, I
never saw such a picture of good-humour and happiness as he
presented, from the top of his shining head down to the very last
button of his gaiters.
I should have been well pleased, and should have had the utmost
enjoyment of his company, if he had remained with me all day, but
my favourite, striking the hour, reminded him that he must take his
leave. I could not forbear telling him once more how glad he had
made me, and we shook hands all the way down-stairs.
We had no sooner arrived in the Hall than my housekeeper, gliding
out of her little room (she had changed her gown and cap, I
observed), greeted Mr. Pickwick with her best smile and courtesy;
and the barber, feigning to be accidentally passing on his way out,
made him a vast number of bows. When the housekeeper courtesied,
Mr. Pickwick bowed with the utmost politeness, and when he bowed,
the housekeeper courtesied again; between the housekeeper and the
barber, I should say that Mr. Pickwick faced about and bowed with
undiminished affability fifty times at least.
I saw him to the door; an omnibus was at the moment passing the
corner of the lane, which Mr. Pickwick hailed and ran after with
extraordinary nimbleness. When he had got about half-way, he
turned his head, and seeing that I was still looking after him and
that I waved my hand, stopped, evidently irresolute whether to come
back and shake hands again, or to go on. The man behind the
omnibus shouted, and Mr. Pickwick ran a little way towards him:
then he looked round at me, and ran a little way back again. Then
there was another shout, and he turned round once more and ran the
other way. After several of these vibrations, the man settled the
question by taking Mr. Pickwick by the arm and putting him into the
carriage; but his last action was to let down the window and wave
his hat to me as it drove off.
I lost no time in opening the parcel he had left with me. The
following were its contents:-
MR. PICKWICK'S TALE
A good many years have passed away since old John Podgers lived in
the town of Windsor, where he was born, and where, in course of
time, he came to be comfortably and snugly buried. You may be sure
that in the time of King James the First, Windsor was a very quaint
queer old town, and you may take it upon my authority that John
Podgers was a very quaint queer old fellow; consequently he and
Windsor fitted each other to a nicety, and seldom parted company
even for half a day.
John Podgers was broad, sturdy, Dutch-built, short, and a very hard
eater, as men of his figure often are. Being a hard sleeper
likewise, he divided his time pretty equally between these two
recreations, always falling asleep when he had done eating, and
always taking another turn at the trencher when he had done
sleeping, by which means he grew more corpulent and more drowsy
every day of his life. Indeed it used to be currently reported
that when he sauntered up and down the sunny side of the street
before dinner (as he never failed to do in fair weather), he
enjoyed his soundest nap; but many people held this to be a
fiction, as he had several times been seen to look after fat oxen
on market-days, and had even been heard, by persons of good credit
and reputation, to chuckle at the sight, and say to himself with
great glee, 'Live beef, live beef!' It was upon this evidence that
the wisest people in Windsor (beginning with the local authorities
of course) held that John Podgers was a man of strong, sound sense,
not what is called smart, perhaps, and it might be of a rather lazy
and apoplectic turn, but still a man of solid parts, and one who
meant much more than he cared to show. This impression was
confirmed by a very dignified way he had of shaking his head and
imparting, at the same time, a pendulous motion to his double chin;
in short, he passed for one of those people who, being plunged into
the Thames, would make no vain efforts to set it afire, but would
straightway flop down to the bottom with a deal of gravity, and be
highly respected in consequence by all good men.
Being well to do in the world, and a peaceful widower, - having a
great appetite, which, as he could afford to gratify it, was a
luxury and no inconvenience, and a power of going to sleep, which,
as he had no occasion to keep awake, was a most enviable faculty, -
you will readily suppose that John Podgers was a happy man. But
appearances are often deceptive when they least seem so, and the
truth is that, notwithstanding his extreme sleekness, he was
rendered uneasy in his mind and exceedingly uncomfortable by a
constant apprehension that beset him night and day.
You know very well that in those times there flourished divers evil
old women who, under the name of Witches, spread great disorder
through the land, and inflicted various dismal tortures upon
Christian men; sticking pins and needles into them when they least
expected it, and causing them to walk in the air with their feet
upwards, to the great terror of their wives and families, who were
naturally very much disconcerted when the master of the house
unexpectedly came home, knocking at the door with his heels and
combing his hair on the scraper. These were their commonest
pranks, but they every day played a hundred others, of which none
were less objectionable, and many were much more so, being improper
besides; the result was that vengeance was denounced against all
old women, with whom even the king himself had no sympathy (as he
certainly ought to have had), for with his own most Gracious hand
he penned a most Gracious consignment of them to everlasting wrath,
and devised most Gracious means for their confusion and slaughter,
in virtue whereof scarcely a day passed but one witch at the least
was most graciously hanged, drowned, or roasted in some part of his
dominions. Still the press teemed with strange and terrible news
from the North or the South, or the East or the West, relative to
witches and their unhappy victims in some corner of the country,
and the Public's hair stood on end to that degree that it lifted
its hat off its head, and made its face pale with terror.
You may believe that the little town of Windsor did not escape the
general contagion. The inhabitants boiled a witch on the king's
birthday and sent a bottle of the broth to court, with a dutiful
address expressive of their loyalty. The king, being rather
frightened by the present, piously bestowed it upon the Archbishop
of Canterbury, and returned an answer to the address, wherein he
gave them golden rules for discovering witches, and laid great
stress upon certain protecting charms, and especially horseshoes.
Immediately the towns-people went to work nailing up horseshoes
over every door, and so many anxious parents apprenticed their
children to farriers to keep them out of harm's way, that it became
quite a genteel trade, and flourished exceedingly.
In the midst of all this bustle John Podgers ate and slept as
usual, but shook his head a great deal oftener than was his custom,
and was observed to look at the oxen less, and at the old women
more. He had a little shelf put up in his sitting-room, whereon
was displayed, in a row which grew longer every week, all the
witchcraft literature of the time; he grew learned in charms and
exorcisms, hinted at certain questionable females on broomsticks
whom he had seen from his chamber window, riding in the air at
night, and was in constant terror of being bewitched. At length,
from perpetually dwelling upon this one idea, which, being alone in
his head, had all its own way, the fear of witches became the
single passion of his life. He, who up to that time had never
known what it was to dream, began to have visions of witches
whenever he fell asleep; waking, they were incessantly present to
his imagination likewise; and, sleeping or waking, he had not a
moment's peace. He began to set witch-traps in the highway, and
was often seen lying in wait round the corner for hours together,
to watch their effect. These engines were of simple construction,
usually consisting of two straws disposed in the form of a cross,
or a piece of a Bible cover with a pinch of salt upon it; but they
were infallible, and if an old woman chanced to stumble over them
(as not unfrequently happened, the chosen spot being a broken and
stony place), John started from a doze, pounced out upon her, and
hung round her neck till assistance arrived, when she was
immediately carried away and drowned. By dint of constantly
inveigling old ladies and disposing of them in this summary manner,
he acquired the reputation of a great public character; and as he
received no harm in these pursuits beyond a scratched face or so,
he came, in the course of time, to be considered witch-proof.
There was but one person who entertained the least doubt of John
Podgers's gifts, and that person was his own nephew, a wild, roving
young fellow of twenty who had been brought up in his uncle's house
and lived there still, - that is to say, when he was at home, which
was not as often as it might have been. As he was an apt scholar,
it was he who read aloud every fresh piece of strange and terrible
intelligence that John Podgers bought; and this he always did of an
evening in the little porch in front of the house, round which the
neighbours would flock in crowds to hear the direful news, - for
people like to be frightened, and when they can be frightened for
nothing and at another man's expense, they like it all the better.
One fine midsummer evening, a group of persons were gathered in
this place, listening intently to Will Marks (that was the nephew's
name), as with his cap very much on one side, his arm coiled slyly
round the waist of a pretty girl who sat beside him, and his face
screwed into a comical expression intended to represent extreme
gravity, he read - with Heaven knows how many embellishments of his
own - a dismal account of a gentleman down in Northamptonshire
under the influence of witchcraft and taken forcible possession of
by the Devil, who was playing his very self with him. John
Podgers, in a high sugar-loaf hat and short cloak, filled the
opposite seat, and surveyed the auditory with a look of mingled
pride and horror very edifying to see; while the hearers, with
their heads thrust forward and their mouths open, listened and
trembled, and hoped there was a great deal more to come. Sometimes
Will stopped for an instant to look round upon his eager audience,
and then, with a more comical expression of face than before and a
settling of himself comfortably, which included a squeeze of the
young lady before mentioned, he launched into some new wonder
surpassing all the others.
The setting sun shed his last golden rays upon this little party,
who, absorbed in their present occupation, took no heed of the
approach of night, or the glory in which the day went down, when
the sound of a horse, approaching at a good round trot, invading
the silence of the hour, caused the reader to make a sudden stop,
and the listeners to raise their heads in wonder. Nor was their
wonder diminished when a horseman dashed up to the porch, and
abruptly checking his steed, inquired where one John Podgers dwelt.
'Here!' cried a dozen voices, while a dozen hands pointed out
sturdy John, still basking in the terrors of the pamphlet.
The rider, giving his bridle to one of those who surrounded him,
dismounted, and approached John, hat in hand, but with great haste.
'Whence come ye?' said John.
'From Kingston, master.'
'On most pressing business.'
'Of what nature?'
Witchcraft! Everybody looked aghast at the breathless messenger,
and the breathless messenger looked equally aghast at everybody -
except Will Marks, who, finding himself unobserved, not only
squeezed the young lady again, but kissed her twice. Surely he
must have been bewitched himself, or he never could have done it -
and the young lady too, or she never would have let him.
'Witchcraft!' cried Will, drowning the sound of his last kiss,
which was rather a loud one.
The messenger turned towards him, and with a frown repeated the
word more solemnly than before; then told his errand, which was, in
brief, that the people of Kingston had been greatly terrified for
some nights past by hideous revels, held by witches beneath the
gibbet within a mile of the town, and related and deposed to by
chance wayfarers who had passed within ear-shot of the spot; that
the sound of their voices in their wild orgies had been plainly
heard by many persons; that three old women laboured under strong
suspicion, and that precedents had been consulted and solemn
council had, and it was found that to identify the hags some single
person must watch upon the spot alone; that no single person had
the courage to perform the task; and that he had been despatched
express to solicit John Podgers to undertake it that very night, as
being a man of great renown, who bore a charmed life, and was proof
against unholy spells.
John received this communication with much composure, and said in a
few words, that it would have afforded him inexpressible pleasure
to do the Kingston people so slight a service, if it were not for
his unfortunate propensity to fall asleep, which no man regretted
more than himself upon the present occasion, but which quite
settled the question. Nevertheless, he said, there WAS a gentleman
present (and here he looked very hard at a tall farrier), who,
having been engaged all his life in the manufacture of horseshoes,
must be quite invulnerable to the power of witches, and who, he had
no doubt, from his own reputation for bravery and good-nature,
would readily accept the commission. The farrier politely thanked
him for his good opinion, which it would always be his study to
deserve, but added that, with regard to the present little matter,
he couldn't think of it on any account, as his departing on such an
errand would certainly occasion the instant death of his wife, to
whom, as they all knew, he was tenderly attached. Now, so far from
this circumstance being notorious, everybody had suspected the
reverse, as the farrier was in the habit of beating his lady rather
more than tender husbands usually do; all the married men present,
however, applauded his resolution with great vehemence, and one and
all declared that they would stop at home and die if needful (which
happily it was not) in defence of their lawful partners.
This burst of enthusiasm over, they began to look, as by one
consent, toward Will Marks, who, with his cap more on one side than
ever, sat watching the proceedings with extraordinary unconcern.
He had never been heard openly to express his disbelief in witches,
but had often cut such jokes at their expense as left it to be
inferred; publicly stating on several occasions that he considered
a broomstick an inconvenient charger, and one especially unsuited
to the dignity of the female character, and indulging in other free
remarks of the same tendency, to the great amusement of his wild
As they looked at Will they began to whisper and murmur among
themselves, and at length one man cried, 'Why don't you ask Will
As this was what everybody had been thinking of, they all took up
the word, and cried in concert, 'Ah! why don't you ask Will?'
'HE don't care,' said the farrier.
'Not he,' added another voice in the crowd.
'He don't believe in it, you know,' sneered a little man with a
yellow face and a taunting nose and chin, which he thrust out from
under the arm of a long man before him.
'Besides,' said a red-faced gentleman with a gruff voice, 'he's a
'That's the point!' said the farrier; and all the married men
murmured, ah! that was it, and they only wished they were single
themselves; they would show him what spirit was, very soon.
The messenger looked towards Will Marks beseechingly.
'It will be a wet night, friend, and my gray nag is tired after
yesterday's work - '
Here there was a general titter.
'But,' resumed Will, looking about him with a smile, 'if nobody
else puts in a better claim to go, for the credit of the town I am
your man, and I would be, if I had to go afoot. In five minutes I
shall be in the saddle, unless I am depriving any worthy gentleman
here of the honour of the adventure, which I wouldn't do for the
But here arose a double difficulty, for not only did John Podgers
combat the resolution with all the words he had, which were not
many, but the young lady combated it too with all the tears she
had, which were very many indeed. Will, however, being inflexible,
parried his uncle's objections with a joke, and coaxed the young
lady into a smile in three short whispers. As it was plain that he
set his mind upon it, and would go, John Podgers offered him a few
first-rate charms out of his own pocket, which he dutifully
declined to accept; and the young lady gave him a kiss, which he
'You see what a rare thing it is to be married,' said Will, 'and
how careful and considerate all these husbands are. There's not a
man among them but his heart is leaping to forestall me in this
adventure, and yet a strong sense of duty keeps him back. The
husbands in this one little town are a pattern to the world, and so
must the wives be too, for that matter, or they could never boast
half the influence they have!'
Waiting for no reply to this sarcasm, he snapped his fingers and
withdrew into the house, and thence into the stable, while some
busied themselves in refreshing the messenger, and others in
baiting his steed. In less than the specified time he returned by
another way, with a good cloak hanging over his arm, a good sword
girded by his side, and leading his good horse caparisoned for the
'Now,' said Will, leaping into the saddle at a bound, 'up and away.
Upon your mettle, friend, and push on. Good night!'
He kissed his hand to the girl, nodded to his drowsy uncle, waved
his cap to the rest - and off they flew pell-mell, as if all the
witches in England were in their horses' legs. They were out of
sight in a minute.
The men who were left behind shook their heads doubtfully, stroked
their chins, and shook their heads again. The farrier said that
certainly Will Marks was a good horseman, nobody should ever say he
denied that: but he was rash, very rash, and there was no telling
what the end of it might be; what did he go for, that was what he
wanted to know? He wished the young fellow no harm, but why did he
go? Everybody echoed these words, and shook their heads again,
having done which they wished John Podgers good night, and
straggled home to bed.
The Kingston people were in their first sleep when Will Marks and
his conductor rode through the town and up to the door of a house
where sundry grave functionaries were assembled, anxiously
expecting the arrival of the renowned Podgers. They were a little
disappointed to find a gay young man in his place; but they put the
best face upon the matter, and gave him full instructions how he
was to conceal himself behind the gibbet, and watch and listen to
the witches, and how at a certain time he was to burst forth and
cut and slash among them vigorously, so that the suspected parties
might be found bleeding in their beds next day, and thoroughly
confounded. They gave him a great quantity of wholesome advice
besides, and - which was more to the purpose with Will - a good
supper. All these things being done, and midnight nearly come,
they sallied forth to show him the spot where he was to keep his
The night was by this time dark and threatening. There was a
rumbling of distant thunder, and a low sighing of wind among the
trees, which was very dismal. The potentates of the town kept so
uncommonly close to Will that they trod upon his toes, or stumbled
against his ankles, or nearly tripped up his heels at every step he
took, and, besides these annoyances, their teeth chattered so with
fear, that he seemed to be accompanied by a dirge of castanets.
At last they made a halt at the opening of a lonely, desolate
space, and, pointing to a black object at some distance, asked Will
if he saw that, yonder.
'Yes,' he replied. 'What then?'
Informing him abruptly that it was the gibbet where he was to
watch, they wished him good night in an extremely friendly manner,
and ran back as fast as their feet would carry them.
Will walked boldly to the gibbet, and, glancing upwards when he
came under it, saw - certainly with satisfaction - that it was
empty, and that nothing dangled from the top but some iron chains,
which swung mournfully to and fro as they were moved by the breeze.
After a careful survey of every quarter he determined to take his
station with his face towards the town; both because that would
place him with his back to the wind, and because, if any trick or
surprise were attempted, it would probably come from that direction
in the first instance. Having taken these precautions, he wrapped
his cloak about him so that it left the handle of his sword free,
and ready to his hand, and leaning against the gallows-tree with
his cap not quite so much on one side as it had been before, took
up his position for the night.
SECOND CHAPTER OF MR. PICKWICK'S TALE
We left Will Marks leaning under the gibbet with his face towards
the town, scanning the distance with a keen eye, which sought to
pierce the darkness and catch the earliest glimpse of any person or
persons that might approach towards him. But all was quiet, and,
save the howling of the wind as it swept across the heath in gusts,
and the creaking of the chains that dangled above his head, there
was no sound to break the sullen stillness of the night. After
half an hour or so this monotony became more disconcerting to Will
than the most furious uproar would have been, and he heartily
wished for some one antagonist with whom he might have a fair
stand-up fight, if it were only to warm himself.
Truth to tell, it was a bitter wind, and seemed to blow to the very
heart of a man whose blood, heated but now with rapid riding, was
the more sensitive to the chilling blast. Will was a daring
fellow, and cared not a jot for hard knocks or sharp blades; but he
could not persuade himself to move or walk about, having just that
vague expectation of a sudden assault which made it a comfortable
thing to have something at his back, even though that something
were a gallows-tree. He had no great faith in the superstitions of
the age, still such of them as occurred to him did not serve to
lighten the time, or to render his situation the more endurable.
He remembered how witches were said to repair at that ghostly hour
to churchyards and gibbets, and such-like dismal spots, to pluck
the bleeding mandrake or scrape the flesh from dead men's bones, as
choice ingredients for their spells; how, stealing by night to
lonely places, they dug graves with their finger-nails, or anointed
themselves before riding in the air, with a delicate pomatum made
of the fat of infants newly boiled. These, and many other fabled
practices of a no less agreeable nature, and all having some
reference to the circumstances in which he was placed, passed and
repassed in quick succession through the mind of Will Marks, and
adding a shadowy dread to that distrust and watchfulness which his
situation inspired, rendered it, upon the whole, sufficiently
uncomfortable. As he had foreseen, too, the rain began to descend
heavily, and driving before the wind in a thick mist, obscured even
those few objects which the darkness of the night had before
'Look!' shrieked a voice. 'Great Heaven, it has fallen down, and
stands erect as if it lived!'
The speaker was close behind him; the voice was almost at his ear.
Will threw off his cloak, drew his sword, and darting swiftly
round, seized a woman by the wrist, who, recoiling from him with a
dreadful shriek, fell struggling upon her knees. Another woman,
clad, like her whom he had grasped, in mourning garments, stood
rooted to the spot on which they were, gazing upon his face with
wild and glaring eyes that quite appalled him.
'Say,' cried Will, when they had confronted each other thus for
some time, 'what are ye?'
'Say what are YOU,' returned the woman, 'who trouble even this
obscene resting-place of the dead, and strip the gibbet of its
honoured burden? Where is the body?'
He looked in wonder and affright from the woman who questioned him
to the other whose arm he clutched.
'Where is the body?' repeated the questioner more firmly than
before. 'You wear no livery which marks you for the hireling of
the government. You are no friend to us, or I should recognise
you, for the friends of such as we are few in number. What are you
then, and wherefore are you here?'
'I am no foe to the distressed and helpless,' said Will. 'Are ye
among that number? ye should be by your looks.'
'We are!' was the answer.
'Is it ye who have been wailing and weeping here under cover of the
night?' said Will.
'It is,' replied the woman sternly; and pointing, as she spoke,
towards her companion, 'she mourns a husband, and I a brother.
Even the bloody law that wreaks its vengeance on the dead does not
make that a crime, and if it did 'twould be alike to us who are
past its fear or favour.'
Will glanced at the two females, and could barely discern that the
one whom he addressed was much the elder, and that the other was
young and of a slight figure. Both were deadly pale, their
garments wet and worn, their hair dishevelled and streaming in the
wind, themselves bowed down with grief and misery; their whole
appearance most dejected, wretched, and forlorn. A sight so
different from any he had expected to encounter touched him to the
quick, and all idea of anything but their pitiable condition
vanished before it.
'I am a rough, blunt yeoman,' said Will. 'Why I came here is told
in a word; you have been overheard at a distance in the silence of
the night, and I have undertaken a watch for hags or spirits. I
came here expecting an adventure, and prepared to go through with
any. If there be aught that I can do to help or aid you, name it,
and on the faith of a man who can be secret and trusty, I will
stand by you to the death.'
'How comes this gibbet to be empty?' asked the elder female.
'I swear to you,' replied Will, 'that I know as little as yourself.
But this I know, that when I came here an hour ago or so, it was as
it is now; and if, as I gather from your question, it was not so
last night, sure I am that it has been secretly disturbed without
the knowledge of the folks in yonder town. Bethink you, therefore,
whether you have no friends in league with you or with him on whom
the law has done its worst, by whom these sad remains have been
removed for burial.'
The women spoke together, and Will retired a pace or two while they
conversed apart. He could hear them sob and moan, and saw that
they wrung their hands in fruitless agony. He could make out
little that they said, but between whiles he gathered enough to
assure him that his suggestion was not very wide of the mark, and
that they not only suspected by whom the body had been removed, but
also whither it had been conveyed. When they had been in
conversation a long time, they turned towards him once more. This
time the younger female spoke.
'You have offered us your help?'
'And given a pledge that you are still willing to redeem?'
'Yes. So far as I may, keeping all plots and conspiracies at arm's
'Follow us, friend.'
Will, whose self-possession was now quite restored, needed no
second bidding, but with his drawn sword in his hand, and his cloak
so muffled over his left arm as to serve for a kind of shield
without offering any impediment to its free action, suffered them
to lead the way. Through mud and mire, and wind and rain, they
walked in silence a full mile. At length they turned into a dark
lane, where, suddenly starting out from beneath some trees where he
had taken shelter, a man appeared, having in his charge three
saddled horses. One of these (his own apparently), in obedience to
a whisper from the women, he consigned to Will, who, seeing that
they mounted, mounted also. Then, without a word spoken, they rode
on together, leaving the attendant behind.
They made no halt nor slackened their pace until they arrived near
Putney. At a large wooden house which stood apart from any other
they alighted, and giving their horses to one who was already
waiting, passed in by a side door, and so up some narrow creaking
stairs into a small panelled chamber, where Will was left alone.
He had not been here very long, when the door was softly opened,
and there entered to him a cavalier whose face was concealed
beneath a black mask.
Will stood upon his guard, and scrutinised this figure from head to
foot. The form was that of a man pretty far advanced in life, but
of a firm and stately carriage. His dress was of a rich and costly
kind, but so soiled and disordered that it was scarcely to be
recognised for one of those gorgeous suits which the expensive
taste and fashion of the time prescribed for men of any rank or
He was booted and spurred, and bore about him even as many tokens
of the state of the roads as Will himself. All this he noted,
while the eyes behind the mask regarded him with equal attention.
This survey over, the cavalier broke silence.
'Thou'rt young and bold, and wouldst be richer than thou art?'
'The two first I am,' returned Will. 'The last I have scarcely
thought of. But be it so. Say that I would be richer than I am;
'The way lies before thee now,' replied the Mask.
'Show it me.'
'First let me inform thee, that thou wert brought here to-night
lest thou shouldst too soon have told thy tale to those who placed
thee on the watch.'
'I thought as much when I followed,' said Will. 'But I am no blab,
'Good,' returned the Mask. 'Now listen. He who was to have
executed the enterprise of burying that body, which, as thou hast
suspected, was taken down to-night, has left us in our need.'
Will nodded, and thought within himself that if the Mask were to
attempt to play any tricks, the first eyelet-hole on the left-hand
side of his doublet, counting from the buttons up the front, would
be a very good place in which to pink him neatly.
'Thou art here, and the emergency is desperate. I propose his task
to thee. Convey the body (now coffined in this house), by means
that I shall show, to the Church of St. Dunstan in London to-morrow
night, and thy service shall be richly paid. Thou'rt about to ask
whose corpse it is. Seek not to know. I warn thee, seek not to
know. Felons hang in chains on every moor and heath. Believe, as
others do, that this was one, and ask no further. The murders of
state policy, its victims or avengers, had best remain unknown to
such as thee.'
'The mystery of this service,' said Will, 'bespeaks its danger.
What is the reward?'
'One hundred golden unities,' replied the cavalier. 'The danger to
one who cannot be recognised as the friend of a fallen cause is not
great, but there is some hazard to be run. Decide between that and
'What if I refuse?' said Will.
'Depart in peace, in God's name,' returned the Mask in a melancholy
tone, 'and keep our secret, remembering that those who brought thee
here were crushed and stricken women, and that those who bade thee
go free could have had thy life with one word, and no man the
Men were readier to undertake desperate adventures in those times
than they are now. In this case the temptation was great, and the
punishment, even in case of detection, was not likely to be very
severe, as Will came of a loyal stock, and his uncle was in good
repute, and a passable tale to account for his possession of the
body and his ignorance of the identity might be easily devised.
The cavalier explained that a coveted cart had been prepared for
the purpose; that the time of departure could be arranged so that
he should reach London Bridge at dusk, and proceed through the City
after the day had closed in; that people would be ready at his
journey's end to place the coffin in a vault without a minute's
delay; that officious inquirers in the streets would be easily
repelled by the tale that he was carrying for interment the corpse
of one who had died of the plague; and in short showed him every
reason why he should succeed, and none why he should fail. After a
time they were joined by another gentleman, masked like the first,
who added new arguments to those which had been already urged; the
wretched wife, too, added her tears and prayers to their calmer
representations; and in the end, Will, moved by compassion and
good-nature, by a love of the marvellous, by a mischievous
anticipation of the terrors of the Kingston people when he should
be missing next day, and finally, by the prospect of gain, took
upon himself the task, and devoted all his energies to its
The following night, when it was quite dark, the hollow echoes of
old London Bridge responded to the rumbling of the cart which
contained the ghastly load, the object of Will Marks' care.
Sufficiently disguised to attract no attention by his garb, Will
walked at the horse's head, as unconcerned as a man could be who
was sensible that he had now arrived at the most dangerous part of
his undertaking, but full of boldness and confidence.
It was now eight o'clock. After nine, none could walk the streets
without danger of their lives, and even at this hour, robberies and
murder were of no uncommon occurrence. The shops upon the bridge
were all closed; the low wooden arches thrown across the way were
like so many black pits, in every one of which ill-favoured fellows
lurked in knots of three or four; some standing upright against the
wall, lying in wait; others skulking in gateways, and thrusting out
their uncombed heads and scowling eyes: others crossing and
recrossing, and constantly jostling both horse and man to provoke a
quarrel; others stealing away and summoning their companions in a
low whistle. Once, even in that short passage, there was the noise
of scuffling and the clash of swords behind him, but Will, who knew
the City and its ways, kept straight on and scarcely turned his
The streets being unpaved, the rain of the night before had
converted them into a perfect quagmire, which the splashing water-
spouts from the gables, and the filth and offal cast from the
different houses, swelled in no small degree. These odious matters
being left to putrefy in the close and heavy air, emitted an
insupportable stench, to which every court and passage poured forth
a contribution of its own. Many parts, even of the main streets,
with their projecting stories tottering overhead and nearly
shutting out the sky, were more like huge chimneys than open ways.
At the corners of some of these, great bonfires were burning to
prevent infection from the plague, of which it was rumoured that
some citizens had lately died; and few, who availing themselves of
the light thus afforded paused for a moment to look around them,
would have been disposed to doubt the existence of the disease, or
wonder at its dreadful visitations.
But it was not in such scenes as these, or even in the deep and
miry road, that Will Marks found the chief obstacles to his
progress. There were kites and ravens feeding in the streets (the
only scavengers the City kept), who, scenting what he carried,
followed the cart or fluttered on its top, and croaked their
knowledge of its burden and their ravenous appetite for prey.
There were distant fires, where the poor wood and plaster tenements
wasted fiercely, and whither crowds made their way, clamouring
eagerly for plunder, beating down all who came within their reach,
and yelling like devils let loose. There were single-handed men
flying from bands of ruffians, who pursued them with naked weapons,
and hunted them savagely; there were drunken, desperate robbers
issuing from their dens and staggering through the open streets
where no man dared molest them; there were vagabond servitors
returning from the Bear Garden, where had been good sport that day,
dragging after them their torn and bleeding dogs, or leaving them
to die and rot upon the road. Nothing was abroad but cruelty,
violence, and disorder.
Many were the interruptions which Will Marks encountered from these
stragglers, and many the narrow escapes he made. Now some stout
bully would take his seat upon the cart, insisting to be driven to
his own home, and now two or three men would come down upon him
together, and demand that on peril of his life he showed them what
he had inside. Then a party of the city watch, upon their rounds,
would draw across the road, and not satisfied with his tale,
question him closely, and revenge themselves by a little cuffing
and hustling for maltreatment sustained at other hands that night.
All these assailants had to be rebutted, some by fair words, some
by foul, and some by blows. But Will Marks was not the man to be
stopped or turned back now he had penetrated so far, and though he
got on slowly, still he made his way down Fleet-street and reached
the church at last.
As he had been forewarned, all was in readiness. Directly he
stopped, the coffin was removed by four men, who appeared so
suddenly that they seemed to have started from the earth. A fifth
mounted the cart, and scarcely allowing Will time to snatch from it
a little bundle containing such of his own clothes as he had thrown
off on assuming his disguise, drove briskly away. Will never saw
cart or man again.
He followed the body into the church, and it was well he lost no
time in doing so, for the door was immediately closed. There was
no light in the building save that which came from a couple of
torches borne by two men in cloaks, who stood upon the brink of a
vault. Each supported a female figure, and all observed a profound
By this dim and solemn glare, which made Will feel as though light
itself were dead, and its tomb the dreary arches that frowned
above, they placed the coffin in the vault, with uncovered heads,
and closed it up. One of the torch-bearers then turned to Will,
and stretched forth his hand, in which was a purse of gold.
Something told him directly that those were the same eyes which he
had seen beneath the mask.
'Take it,' said the cavalier in a low voice, 'and be happy. Though
these have been hasty obsequies, and no priest has blessed the
work, there will not be the less peace with thee thereafter, for
having laid his bones beside those of his little children. Keep
thy own counsel, for thy sake no less than ours, and God be with
'The blessing of a widowed mother on thy head, good friend!' cried
the younger lady through her tears; 'the blessing of one who has
now no hope or rest but in this grave!'
Will stood with the purse in his hand, and involuntarily made a
gesture as though he would return it, for though a thoughtless
fellow, he was of a frank and generous nature. But the two
gentlemen, extinguishing their torches, cautioned him to be gone,
as their common safety would be endangered by a longer delay; and
at the same time their retreating footsteps sounded through the
church. He turned, therefore, towards the point at which he had
entered, and seeing by a faint gleam in the distance that the door
was again partially open, groped his way towards it and so passed
into the street.
Meantime the local authorities of Kingston had kept watch and ward
all the previous night, fancying every now and then that dismal
shrieks were borne towards them on the wind, and frequently winking
to each other, and drawing closer to the fire as they drank the
health of the lonely sentinel, upon whom a clerical gentleman
present was especially severe by reason of his levity and youthful
folly. Two or three of the gravest in company, who were of a
theological turn, propounded to him the question, whether such a
character was not but poorly armed for single combat with the
Devil, and whether he himself would not have been a stronger
opponent; but the clerical gentleman, sharply reproving them for
their presumption in discussing such questions, clearly showed that
a fitter champion than Will could scarcely have been selected, not
only for that being a child of Satan, he was the less likely to be
alarmed by the appearance of his own father, but because Satan
himself would be at his ease in such company, and would not scruple
to kick up his heels to an extent which it was quite certain he
would never venture before clerical eyes, under whose influence (as
was notorious) he became quite a tame and milk-and-water character.
But when next morning arrived, and with it no Will Marks, and when
a strong party repairing to the spot, as a strong party ventured to
do in broad day, found Will gone and the gibbet empty, matters grew
serious indeed. The day passing away and no news arriving, and the
night going on also without any intelligence, the thing grew more
tremendous still; in short, the neighbourhood worked itself up to
such a comfortable pitch of mystery and horror, that it is a great
question whether the general feeling was not one of excessive
disappointment, when, on the second morning, Will Marks returned.
However this may be, back Will came in a very cool and collected
state, and appearing not to trouble himself much about anybody
except old John Podgers, who, having been sent for, was sitting in
the Town Hall crying slowly, and dozing between whiles. Having
embraced his uncle and assured him of his safety, Will mounted on a
table and told his story to the crowd.
And surely they would have been the most unreasonable crowd that
ever assembled together, if they had been in the least respect
disappointed with the tale he told them; for besides describing the
Witches' Dance to the minutest motion of their legs, and performing
it in character on the table, with the assistance of a broomstick,
he related how they had carried off the body in a copper caldron,
and so bewitched him, that he lost his senses until he found
himself lying under a hedge at least ten miles off, whence he had
straightway returned as they then beheld. The story gained such
universal applause that it soon afterwards brought down express
from London the great witch-finder of the age, the Heaven-born
Hopkins, who having examined Will closely on several points,
pronounced it the most extraordinary and the best accredited witch-
story ever known, under which title it was published at the Three
Bibles on London Bridge, in small quarto, with a view of the
caldron from an original drawing, and a portrait of the clerical
gentleman as he sat by the fire.
On one point Will was particularly careful: and that was to
describe for the witches he had seen, three impossible old females,
whose likenesses never were or will be. Thus he saved the lives of
the suspected parties, and of all other old women who were dragged
before him to be identified.
This circumstance occasioned John Podgers much grief and sorrow,
until happening one day to cast his eyes upon his house-keeper, and
observing her to be plainly afflicted with rheumatism, he procured
her to be burnt as an undoubted witch. For this service to the
state he was immediately knighted, and became from that time Sir
Will Marks never gained any clue to the mystery in which he had
been an actor, nor did any inscription in the church, which he
often visited afterwards, nor any of the limited inquiries that he
dared to make, yield him the least assistance. As he kept his own
secret, he was compelled to spend the gold discreetly and
sparingly. In the course of time he married the young lady of whom
I have already told you, whose maiden name is not recorded, with
whom he led a prosperous and happy life. Years and years after
this adventure, it was his wont to tell her upon a stormy night
that it was a great comfort to him to think those bones, to
whomsoever they might have once belonged, were not bleaching in the
troubled air, but were mouldering away with the dust of their own
kith and kindred in a quiet grave.
FURTHER PARTICULARS OF MASTER HUMPHREY'S VISITOR
Being very full of Mr. Pickwick's application, and highly pleased
with the compliment he had paid me, it will be readily supposed
that long before our next night of meeting I communicated it to my
three friends, who unanimously voted his admission into our body.
We all looked forward with some impatience to the occasion which
would enroll him among us, but I am greatly mistaken if Jack
Redburn and myself were not by many degrees the most impatient of
At length the night came, and a few minutes after ten Mr.
Pickwick's knock was heard at the street-door. He was shown into a
lower room, and I directly took my crooked stick and went to
accompany him up-stairs, in order that he might be presented with
all honour and formality.
'Mr. Pickwick,' said I, on entering the room, 'I am rejoiced to see
you, - rejoiced to believe that this is but the opening of a long
series of visits to this house, and but the beginning of a close
and lasting friendship.'
That gentleman made a suitable reply with a cordiality and
frankness peculiarly his own, and glanced with a smile towards two
persons behind the door, whom I had not at first observed, and whom
I immediately recognised as Mr. Samuel Weller and his father.
It was a warm evening, but the elder Mr. Weller was attired,
notwithstanding, in a most capacious greatcoat, and his chin
enveloped in a large speckled shawl, such as is usually worn by
stage coachmen on active service. He looked very rosy and very
stout, especially about the legs, which appeared to have been
compressed into his top-boots with some difficulty. His broad-
brimmed hat he held under his left arm, and with the forefinger of
his right hand he touched his forehead a great many times in
acknowledgment of my presence.
'I am very glad to see you in such good health, Mr. Weller,' said
'Why, thankee, sir,' returned Mr. Weller, 'the axle an't broke yet.
We keeps up a steady pace, - not too sewere, but vith a moderate
degree o' friction, - and the consekens is that ve're still a
runnin' and comes in to the time reg'lar. - My son Samivel, sir, as
you may have read on in history,' added Mr. Weller, introducing his
I received Sam very graciously, but before he could say a word his
father struck in again.
'Samivel Veller, sir,' said the old gentleman, 'has conferred upon
me the ancient title o' grandfather vich had long laid dormouse,
and wos s'posed to be nearly hex-tinct in our family. Sammy,
relate a anecdote o' vun o' them boys, - that 'ere little anecdote
about young Tony sayin' as he WOULD smoke a pipe unbeknown to his
'Be quiet, can't you?' said Sam; 'I never see such a old magpie -
'That 'ere Tony is the blessedest boy,' said Mr. Weller, heedless
of this rebuff, 'the blessedest boy as ever I see in MY days! of
all the charmin'est infants as ever I heerd tell on, includin' them
as was kivered over by the robin-redbreasts arter they'd committed
sooicide with blackberries, there never wos any like that 'ere
little Tony. He's alvays a playin' vith a quart pot, that boy is!
To see him a settin' down on the doorstep pretending to drink out
of it, and fetching a long breath artervards, and smoking a bit of
firevood, and sayin', "Now I'm grandfather," - to see him a doin'
that at two year old is better than any play as wos ever wrote.
"Now I'm grandfather!" He wouldn't take a pint pot if you wos to
make him a present on it, but he gets his quart, and then he says,
"Now I'm grandfather!"'
Mr. Weller was so overpowered by this picture that he straightway
fell into a most alarming fit of coughing, which must certainly
have been attended with some fatal result but for the dexterity and
promptitude of Sam, who, taking a firm grasp of the shawl just
under his father's chin, shook him to and fro with great violence,
at the same time administering some smart blows between his
shoulders. By this curious mode of treatment Mr. Weller was
finally recovered, but with a very crimson face, and in a state of
'He'll do now, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, who had been in some alarm
'He'll do, sir!' cried Sam, looking reproachfully at his parent.
'Yes, he WILL do one o' these days, - he'll do for his-self and
then he'll wish he hadn't. Did anybody ever see sich a
inconsiderate old file, - laughing into conwulsions afore company,
and stamping on the floor as if he'd brought his own carpet vith
him and wos under a wager to punch the pattern out in a given time?
He'll begin again in a minute. There - he's a goin' off - I said
In fact, Mr. Weller, whose mind was still running upon his
precocious grandson, was seen to shake his head from side to side,
while a laugh, working like an earthquake, below the surface,
produced various extraordinary appearances in his face, chest, and
shoulders, - the more alarming because unaccompanied by any noise
whatever. These emotions, however, gradually subsided, and after
three or four short relapses he wiped his eyes with the cuff of his
coat, and looked about him with tolerable composure.
'Afore the governor vith-draws,' said Mr. Weller, 'there is a pint,
respecting vich Sammy has a qvestion to ask. Vile that qvestion is
a perwadin' this here conwersation, p'raps the genl'men vill permit
me to re-tire.'
'Wot are you goin' away for?' demanded Sam, seizing his father by
'I never see such a undootiful boy as you, Samivel,' returned Mr.
Weller. 'Didn't you make a solemn promise, amountin' almost to a
speeches o' wow, that you'd put that 'ere qvestion on my account?'
'Well, I'm agreeable to do it,' said Sam, 'but not if you go
cuttin' away like that, as the bull turned round and mildly
observed to the drover ven they wos a goadin' him into the
butcher's door. The fact is, sir,' said Sam, addressing me, 'that
he wants to know somethin' respectin' that 'ere lady as is
'Ay. What is that?'
'Vy, sir,' said Sam, grinning still more, 'he wishes to know vether
she - '
'In short,' interposed old Mr. Weller decisively, a perspiration
breaking out upon his forehead, 'vether that 'ere old creetur is or
is not a widder.'
Mr. Pickwick laughed heartily, and so did I, as I replied
decisively, that 'my housekeeper was a spinster.'
'There!' cried Sam, 'now you're satisfied. You hear she's a
'A wot?' said his father, with deep scorn.
'A spinster,' replied Sam.
Mr. Weller looked very hard at his son for a minute or two, and
'Never mind vether she makes jokes or not, that's no matter. Wot I
say is, is that 'ere female a widder, or is she not?'
'Wot do you mean by her making jokes?' demanded Sam, quite aghast
at the obscurity of his parent's speech.
'Never you mind, Samivel,' returned Mr. Weller gravely; 'puns may
be wery good things or they may be wery bad 'uns, and a female may
be none the better or she may be none the vurse for making of 'em;
that's got nothing to do vith widders.'
'Wy now,' said Sam, looking round, 'would anybody believe as a man
at his time o' life could be running his head agin spinsters and
punsters being the same thing?'
'There an't a straw's difference between 'em,' said Mr. Weller.
'Your father didn't drive a coach for so many years, not to be ekal
to his own langvidge as far as THAT goes, Sammy.'
Avoiding the question of etymology, upon which the old gentleman's
mind was quite made up, he was several times assured that the
housekeeper had never been married. He expressed great
satisfaction on hearing this, and apologised for the question,
remarking that he had been greatly terrified by a widow not long
before, and that his natural timidity was increased in consequence.
'It wos on the rail,' said Mr. Weller, with strong emphasis; 'I wos
a goin' down to Birmingham by the rail, and I wos locked up in a
close carriage vith a living widder. Alone we wos; the widder and
me wos alone; and I believe it wos only because we WOS alone and
there wos no clergyman in the conwayance, that that 'ere widder
didn't marry me afore ve reached the half-way station. Ven I think
how she began a screaming as we wos a goin' under them tunnels in
the dark, - how she kept on a faintin' and ketchin' hold o' me, -
and how I tried to bust open the door as was tight-locked and
perwented all escape - Ah! It was a awful thing, most awful!'
Mr. Weller was so very much overcome by this retrospect that he was
unable, until he had wiped his brow several times, to return any
reply to the question whether he approved of railway communication,
notwithstanding that it would appear from the answer which he
ultimately gave, that he entertained strong opinions on the
'I con-sider,' said Mr. Weller, 'that the rail is unconstitootional
and an inwaser o' priwileges, and I should wery much like to know
what that 'ere old Carter as once stood up for our liberties and
wun 'em too, - I should like to know wot he vould say, if he wos
alive now, to Englishmen being locked up vith widders, or with
anybody again their wills. Wot a old Carter would have said, a old
Coachman may say, and I as-sert that in that pint o' view alone,
the rail is an inwaser. As to the comfort, vere's the comfort o'
sittin' in a harm-cheer lookin' at brick walls or heaps o' mud,
never comin' to a public-house, never seein' a glass o' ale, never
goin' through a pike, never meetin' a change o' no kind (horses or
othervise), but alvays comin' to a place, ven you come to one at
all, the wery picter o' the last, vith the same p'leesemen standing
about, the same blessed old bell a ringin', the same unfort'nate
people standing behind the bars, a waitin' to be let in; and
everythin' the same except the name, vich is wrote up in the same
sized letters as the last name, and vith the same colours. As to
the Honour and dignity o' travellin', vere can that be vithout a
coachman; and wot's the rail to sich coachmen and guards as is
sometimes forced to go by it, but a outrage and a insult? As to
the pace, wot sort o' pace do you think I, Tony Veller, could have
kept a coach goin' at, for five hundred thousand pound a mile, paid
in adwance afore the coach was on the road? And as to the ingein,
- a nasty, wheezin', creakin', gaspin', puffin', bustin' monster,
alvays out o' breath, vith a shiny green-and-gold back, like a
unpleasant beetle in that 'ere gas magnifier, - as to the ingein as
is alvays a pourin' out red-hot coals at night, and black smoke in
the day, the sensiblest thing it does, in my opinion, is, ven
there's somethin' in the vay, and it sets up that 'ere frightful
scream vich seems to say, "Now here's two hundred and forty
passengers in the wery greatest extremity o' danger, and here's
their two hundred and forty screams in vun!"'
By this time I began to fear that my friends would be rendered
impatient by my protracted absence. I therefore begged Mr.
Pickwick to accompany me up-stairs, and left the two Mr. Wellers in
the care of the housekeeper, laying strict injunctions upon her to
treat them with all possible hospitality.
CHAPTER IV - THE CLOCK
As we were going up-stairs, Mr. Pickwick put on his spectacles,
which he had held in his hand hitherto; arranged his neckerchief,
smoothed down his waistcoat, and made many other little
preparations of that kind which men are accustomed to be mindful
of, when they are going among strangers for the first time, and are
anxious to impress them pleasantly. Seeing that I smiled, he
smiled too, and said that if it had occurred to him before he left
home, he would certainly have presented himself in pumps and silk
'I would, indeed, my dear sir,' he said very seriously; 'I would
have shown my respect for the society, by laying aside my gaiters.'
'You may rest assured,' said I, 'that they would have regretted
your doing so very much, for they are quite attached to them.'
'No, really!' cried Mr. Pickwick, with manifest pleasure. 'Do you
think they care about my gaiters? Do you seriously think that they
identify me at all with my gaiters?'
'I am sure they do,' I replied.
'Well, now,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that is one of the most charming
and agreeable circumstances that could possibly have occurred to
I should not have written down this short conversation, but that it
developed a slight point in Mr. Pickwick's character, with which I
was not previously acquainted. He has a secret pride in his legs.
The manner in which he spoke, and the accompanying glance he
bestowed upon his tights, convince me that Mr. Pickwick regards his
legs with much innocent vanity.
'But here are our friends,' said I, opening the door and taking his
arm in mine; 'let them speak for themselves. - Gentlemen, I present
to you Mr. Pickwick.'
Mr. Pickwick and I must have been a good contrast just then. I,
leaning quietly on my crutch-stick, with something of a care-worn,
patient air; he, having hold of my arm, and bowing in every
direction with the most elastic politeness, and an expression of
face whose sprightly cheerfulness and good-humour knew no bounds.
The difference between us must have been more striking yet, as we
advanced towards the table, and the amiable gentleman, adapting his
jocund step to my poor tread, had his attention divided between
treating my infirmities with the utmost consideration, and
affecting to be wholly unconscious that I required any.
I made him personally known to each of my friends in turn. First,
to the deaf gentleman, whom he regarded with much interest, and
accosted with great frankness and cordiality. He had evidently
some vague idea, at the moment, that my friend being deaf must be
dumb also; for when the latter opened his lips to express the
pleasure it afforded him to know a gentleman of whom he had heard
so much, Mr. Pickwick was so extremely disconcerted, that I was
obliged to step in to his relief.
His meeting with Jack Redburn was quite a treat to see. Mr.
Pickwick smiled, and shook hands, and looked at him through his
spectacles, and under them, and over them, and nodded his head
approvingly, and then nodded to me, as much as to say, 'This is
just the man; you were quite right;' and then turned to Jack and
said a few hearty words, and then did and said everything over
again with unimpaired vivacity. As to Jack himself, he was quite
as much delighted with Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pickwick could possibly
be with him. Two people never can have met together since the
world began, who exchanged a warmer or more enthusiastic greeting.
It was amusing to observe the difference between this encounter and
that which succeeded, between Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Miles. It was
clear that the latter gentleman viewed our new member as a kind of
rival in the affections of Jack Redburn, and besides this, he had
more than once hinted to me, in secret, that although he had no
doubt Mr. Pickwick was a very worthy man, still he did consider
that some of his exploits were unbecoming a gentleman of his years
and gravity. Over and above these grounds of distrust, it is one
of his fixed opinions, that the law never can by possibility do
anything wrong; he therefore looks upon Mr. Pickwick as one who has
justly suffered in purse and peace for a breach of his plighted
faith to an unprotected female, and holds that he is called upon to
regard him with some suspicion on that account. These causes led
to a rather cold and formal reception; which Mr. Pickwick
acknowledged with the same stateliness and intense politeness as
was displayed on the other side. Indeed, he assumed an air of such
majestic defiance, that I was fearful he might break out into some
solemn protest or declaration, and therefore inducted him into his
chair without a moment's delay.
This piece of generalship was perfectly successful. The instant he
took his seat, Mr. Pickwick surveyed us all with a most benevolent
aspect, and was taken with a fit of smiling full five minutes long.
His interest in our ceremonies was immense. They are not very
numerous or complicated, and a description of them may be comprised
in very few words. As our transactions have already been, and must
necessarily continue to be, more or less anticipated by being
presented in these pages at different times, and under various
forms, they do not require a detailed account.
Our first proceeding when we are assembled is to shake hands all
round, and greet each other with cheerful and pleasant looks.
Remembering that we assemble not only for the promotion of our
happiness, but with the view of adding something to the common
stock, an air of languor or indifference in any member of our body
would be regarded by the others as a kind of treason. We have
never had an offender in this respect; but if we had, there is no
doubt that he would be taken to task pretty severely.
Our salutation over, the venerable piece of antiquity from which we
take our name is wound up in silence. The ceremony is always
performed by Master Humphrey himself (in treating of the club, I
may be permitted to assume the historical style, and speak of
myself in the third person), who mounts upon a chair for the
purpose, armed with a large key. While it is in progress, Jack
Redburn is required to keep at the farther end of the room under
the guardianship of Mr. Miles, for he is known to entertain certain
aspiring and unhallowed thoughts connected with the clock, and has
even gone so far as to state that if he might take the works out
for a day or two, he thinks he could improve them. We pardon him
his presumption in consideration of his good intentions, and his
keeping this respectful distance, which last penalty is insisted
on, lest by secretly wounding the object of our regard in some
tender part, in the ardour of his zeal for its improvement, he
should fill us with dismay and consternation.
This regulation afforded Mr. Pickwick the highest delight, and
seemed, if possible, to exalt Jack in his good opinion.
The next ceremony is the opening of the clock-case (of which Master
Humphrey has likewise the key), the taking from it as many papers
as will furnish forth our evening's entertainment, and arranging in
the recess such new contributions as have been provided since our
last meeting. This is always done with peculiar solemnity. The
deaf gentleman then fills and lights his pipe, and we once more
take our seats round the table before mentioned, Master Humphrey
acting as president, - if we can be said to have any president,
where all are on the same social footing, - and our friend Jack as
secretary. Our preliminaries being now concluded, we fall into any
train of conversation that happens to suggest itself, or proceed
immediately to one of our readings. In the latter case, the paper
selected is consigned to Master Humphrey, who flattens it carefully
on the table and makes dog's ears in the corner of every page,
ready for turning over easily; Jack Redburn trims the lamp with a
small machine of his own invention which usually puts it out; Mr.
Miles looks on with great approval notwithstanding; the deaf
gentleman draws in his chair, so that he can follow the words on
the paper or on Master Humphrey's lips as he pleases; and Master
Humphrey himself, looking round with mighty gratification, and
glancing up at his old clock, begins to read aloud.
Mr. Pickwick's face, while his tale was being read, would have
attracted the attention of the dullest man alive. The complacent
motion of his head and forefinger as he gently beat time, and
corrected the air with imaginary punctuation, the smile that
mantled on his features at every jocose passage, and the sly look
he stole around to observe its effect, the calm manner in which he
shut his eyes and listened when there was some little piece of
description, the changing expression with which he acted the
dialogue to himself, his agony that the deaf gentleman should know
what it was all about, and his extraordinary anxiety to correct the
reader when he hesitated at a word in the manuscript, or
substituted a wrong one, were alike worthy of remark. And when at
last, endeavouring to communicate with the deaf gentleman by means
of the finger alphabet, with which he constructed such words as are
unknown in any civilised or savage language, he took up a slate and
wrote in large text, one word in a line, the question, 'How - do -
you - like - it?' - when he did this, and handing it over the table
awaited the reply, with a countenance only brightened and improved
by his great excitement, even Mr. Miles relaxed, and could not
forbear looking at him for the moment with interest and favour.
'It has occurred to me,' said the deaf gentleman, who had watched
Mr. Pickwick and everybody else with silent satisfaction - 'it has
occurred to me,' said the deaf gentleman, taking his pipe from his
lips, 'that now is our time for filling our only empty chair.'
As our conversation had naturally turned upon the vacant seat, we
lent a willing ear to this remark, and looked at our friend
'I feel sure,' said he, 'that Mr. Pickwick must be acquainted with
somebody who would be an acquisition to us; that he must know the
man we want. Pray let us not lose any time, but set this question
at rest. Is it so, Mr. Pickwick?'
The gentleman addressed was about to return a verbal reply, but
remembering our friend's infirmity, he substituted for this kind of
answer some fifty nods. Then taking up the slate and printing on
it a gigantic 'Yes,' he handed it across the table, and rubbing his
hands as he looked round upon our faces, protested that he and the
deaf gentleman quite understood each other, already.
'The person I have in my mind,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and whom I
should not have presumed to mention to you until some time hence,
but for the opportunity you have given me, is a very strange old
man. His name is Bamber.'
'Bamber!' said Jack. 'I have certainly heard the name before.'
'I have no doubt, then,' returned Mr. Pickwick, 'that you remember
him in those adventures of mine (the Posthumous Papers of our old
club, I mean), although he is only incidentally mentioned; and, if
I remember right, appears but once.'
'That's it,' said Jack. 'Let me see. He is the person who has a
grave interest in old mouldy chambers and the Inns of Court, and
who relates some anecdotes having reference to his favourite theme,
- and an odd ghost story, - is that the man?'
'The very same. Now,' said Mr. Pickwick, lowering his voice to a
mysterious and confidential tone, 'he is a very extraordinary and
remarkable person; living, and talking, and looking, like some
strange spirit, whose delight is to haunt old buildings; and
absorbed in that one subject which you have just mentioned, to an
extent which is quite wonderful. When I retired into private life,
I sought him out, and I do assure you that the more I see of him,
the more strongly I am impressed with the strange and dreamy
character of his mind.'
'Where does he live?' I inquired.
'He lives,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'in one of those dull, lonely old
places with which his thoughts and stories are all connected; quite
alone, and often shut up close for several weeks together. In this
dusty solitude he broods upon the fancies he has so long indulged,
and when he goes into the world, or anybody from the world without
goes to see him, they are still present to his mind and still his
favourite topic. I may say, I believe, that he has brought himself
to entertain a regard for me, and an interest in my visits;
feelings which I am certain he would extend to Master Humphrey's
Clock if he were once tempted to join us. All I wish you to
understand is, that he is a strange, secluded visionary, in the
world but not of it; and as unlike anybody here as he is unlike
anybody elsewhere that I have ever met or known.'
Mr. Miles received this account of our proposed companion with
rather a wry face, and after murmuring that perhaps he was a little
mad, inquired if he were rich.
'I never asked him,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'You might know, sir, for all that,' retorted Mr. Miles, sharply.
'Perhaps so, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, no less sharply than the
other, 'but I do not. Indeed,' he added, relapsing into his usual
mildness, 'I have no means of judging. He lives poorly, but that
would seem to be in keeping with his character. I never heard him
allude to his circumstances, and never fell into the society of any
man who had the slightest acquaintance with them. I have really
told you all I know about him, and it rests with you to say whether
you wish to know more, or know quite enough already.'
We were unanimously of opinion that we would seek to know more; and
as a sort of compromise with Mr. Miles (who, although he said 'Yes
- O certainly - he should like to know more about the gentleman -
he had no right to put himself in opposition to the general wish,'
and so forth, shook his head doubtfully and hemmed several times
with peculiar gravity), it was arranged that Mr. Pickwick should
carry me with him on an evening visit to the subject of our
discussion, for which purpose an early appointment between that
gentleman and myself was immediately agreed upon; it being
understood that I was to act upon my own responsibility, and to
invite him to join us or not, as I might think proper. This solemn
question determined, we returned to the clock-case (where we have
been forestalled by the reader), and between its contents, and the
conversation they occasioned, the remainder of our time passed very
When we broke up, Mr. Pickwick took me aside to tell me that he had
spent a most charming and delightful evening. Having made this
communication with an air of the strictest secrecy, he took Jack
Redburn into another corner to tell him the same, and then retired
into another corner with the deaf gentleman and the slate, to
repeat the assurance. It was amusing to observe the contest in his
mind whether he should extend his confidence to Mr. Miles, or treat
him with dignified reserve. Half a dozen times he stepped up
behind him with a friendly air, and as often stepped back again
without saying a word; at last, when he was close at that
gentleman's ear and upon the very point of whispering something
conciliating and agreeable, Mr. Miles happened suddenly to turn his
head, upon which Mr. Pickwick skipped away, and said with some
fierceness, 'Good night, sir - I was about to say good night, sir,
- nothing more;' and so made a bow and left him.
'Now, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, when he had got down-stairs.
'All right, sir,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Hold hard, sir. Right arm
fust - now the left - now one strong conwulsion, and the great-
coat's on, sir.'
Mr. Pickwick acted upon these directions, and being further
assisted by Sam, who pulled at one side of the collar, and Mr.
Weller, who pulled hard at the other, was speedily enrobed. Mr.
Weller, senior, then produced a full-sized stable lantern, which he
had carefully deposited in a remote corner, on his arrival, and
inquired whether Mr. Pickwick would have 'the lamps alight.'
'I think not to-night,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Then if this here lady vill per-mit,' rejoined Mr. Weller, 'we'll
leave it here, ready for next journey. This here lantern, mum,'
said Mr. Weller, handing it to the housekeeper, 'vunce belonged to
the celebrated Bill Blinder as is now at grass, as all on us vill
be in our turns. Bill, mum, wos the hostler as had charge o' them
two vell-known piebald leaders that run in the Bristol fast coach,
and vould never go to no other tune but a sutherly vind and a
cloudy sky, which wos consekvently played incessant, by the guard,
wenever they wos on duty. He wos took wery bad one arternoon,
arter having been off his feed, and wery shaky on his legs for some
veeks; and he says to his mate, "Matey," he says, "I think I'm a-
goin' the wrong side o' the post, and that my foot's wery near the
bucket. Don't say I an't," he says, "for I know I am, and don't
let me be interrupted," he says, "for I've saved a little money,
and I'm a-goin' into the stable to make my last vill and
testymint." "I'll take care as nobody interrupts," says his mate,
"but you on'y hold up your head, and shake your ears a bit, and
you're good for twenty years to come." Bill Blinder makes him no
answer, but he goes avay into the stable, and there he soon
artervards lays himself down a'tween the two piebalds, and dies, -
previously a writin' outside the corn-chest, "This is the last vill
and testymint of Villiam Blinder." They wos nat'rally wery much
amazed at this, and arter looking among the litter, and up in the
loft, and vere not, they opens the corn-chest, and finds that he'd
been and chalked his vill inside the lid; so the lid was obligated
to be took off the hinges, and sent up to Doctor Commons to be
proved, and under that 'ere wery instrument this here lantern was
passed to Tony Veller; vich circumstarnce, mum, gives it a wally in
my eyes, and makes me rekvest, if you vill be so kind, as to take
partickler care on it.'
The housekeeper graciously promised to keep the object of Mr.
Weller's regard in the safest possible custody, and Mr. Pickwick,
with a laughing face, took his leave. The bodyguard followed, side
by side; old Mr. Weller buttoned and wrapped up from his boots to
his chin; and Sam with his hands in his pockets and his hat half
off his head, remonstrating with his father, as he went, on his
I was not a little surprised, on turning to go up-stairs, to
encounter the barber in the passage at that late hour; for his
attendance is usually confined to some half-hour in the morning.
But Jack Redburn, who finds out (by instinct, I think) everything
that happens in the house, informed me with great glee, that a
society in imitation of our own had been that night formed in the
kitchen, under the title of 'Mr. Weller's Watch,' of which the
barber was a member; and that he could pledge himself to find means
of making me acquainted with the whole of its future proceedings,
which I begged him, both on my own account and that of my readers,
by no means to neglect doing.
CHAPTER V - MR. WELLER'S WATCH
IT SEEMS that the housekeeper and the two Mr. Wellers were no
sooner left together on the occasion of their first becoming
acquainted, than the housekeeper called to her assistance Mr.
Slithers the barber, who had been lurking in the kitchen in
expectation of her summons; and with many smiles and much sweetness
introduced him as one who would assist her in the responsible
office of entertaining her distinguished visitors.
'Indeed,' said she, 'without Mr. Slithers I should have been placed
in quite an awkward situation.'
'There is no call for any hock'erdness, mum,' said Mr. Weller with
the utmost politeness; 'no call wotsumever. A lady,' added the old
gentleman, looking about him with the air of one who establishes an
incontrovertible position, - 'a lady can't be hock'erd. Natur' has
The housekeeper inclined her head and smiled yet more sweetly. The
barber, who had been fluttering about Mr. Weller and Sam in a state
of great anxiety to improve their acquaintance, rubbed his hands
and cried, 'Hear, hear! Very true, sir;' whereupon Sam turned
about and steadily regarded him for some seconds in silence.
'I never knew,' said Sam, fixing his eyes in a ruminative manner
upon the blushing barber, - 'I never knew but vun o' your trade,
but HE wos worth a dozen, and wos indeed dewoted to his callin'!'
'Was he in the easy shaving way, sir,' inquired Mr. Slithers; 'or
in the cutting and curling line?'
'Both,' replied Sam; 'easy shavin' was his natur', and cuttin' and
curlin' was his pride and glory. His whole delight wos in his
trade. He spent all his money in bears, and run in debt for 'em
besides, and there they wos a growling avay down in the front
cellar all day long, and ineffectooally gnashing their teeth, vile
the grease o' their relations and friends wos being re-tailed in
gallipots in the shop above, and the first-floor winder wos
ornamented vith their heads; not to speak o' the dreadful
aggrawation it must have been to 'em to see a man alvays a walkin'
up and down the pavement outside, vith the portrait of a bear in
his last agonies, and underneath in large letters, "Another fine
animal wos slaughtered yesterday at Jinkinson's!" Hows'ever, there
they wos, and there Jinkinson wos, till he wos took wery ill with
some inn'ard disorder, lost the use of his legs, and wos confined
to his bed, vere he laid a wery long time, but sich wos his pride
in his profession, even then, that wenever he wos worse than usual
the doctor used to go down-stairs and say, "Jinkinson's wery low
this mornin'; we must give the bears a stir;" and as sure as ever
they stirred 'em up a bit and made 'em roar, Jinkinson opens his
eyes if he wos ever so bad, calls out, "There's the bears!" and
'Astonishing!' cried the barber.
'Not a bit,' said Sam, 'human natur' neat as imported. Vun day the
doctor happenin' to say, "I shall look in as usual to-morrow
mornin'," Jinkinson catches hold of his hand and says, "Doctor," he
says, "will you grant me one favour?" "I will, Jinkinson," says
the doctor. "Then, doctor," says Jinkinson, "vill you come
unshaved, and let me shave you?" "I will," says the doctor. "God
bless you," says Jinkinson. Next day the doctor came, and arter
he'd been shaved all skilful and reg'lar, he says, "Jinkinson," he
says, "it's wery plain this does you good. Now," he says, "I've
got a coachman as has got a beard that it 'ud warm your heart to
work on, and though the footman," he says, "hasn't got much of a
beard, still he's a trying it on vith a pair o' viskers to that
extent that razors is Christian charity. If they take it in turns
to mind the carriage when it's a waitin' below," he says, "wot's to
hinder you from operatin' on both of 'em ev'ry day as well as upon
me? you've got six children," he says, "wot's to hinder you from
shavin' all their heads and keepin' 'em shaved? you've got two
assistants in the shop down-stairs, wot's to hinder you from
cuttin' and curlin' them as often as you like? Do this," he says,
"and you're a man agin." Jinkinson squeedged the doctor's hand and
begun that wery day; he kept his tools upon the bed, and wenever he
felt his-self gettin' worse, he turned to at vun o' the children
who wos a runnin' about the house vith heads like clean Dutch
cheeses, and shaved him agin. Vun day the lawyer come to make his
vill; all the time he wos a takin' it down, Jinkinson was secretly
a clippin' avay at his hair vith a large pair of scissors. "Wot's
that 'ere snippin' noise?" says the lawyer every now and then;
"it's like a man havin' his hair cut." "It IS wery like a man
havin' his hair cut," says poor Jinkinson, hidin' the scissors, and
lookin' quite innocent. By the time the lawyer found it out, he
was wery nearly bald. Jinkinson wos kept alive in this vay for a
long time, but at last vun day he has in all the children vun arter
another, shaves each on 'em wery clean, and gives him vun kiss on
the crown o' his head; then he has in the two assistants, and arter
cuttin' and curlin' of 'em in the first style of elegance, says he
should like to hear the woice o' the greasiest bear, vich rekvest
is immediately complied with; then he says that he feels wery happy
in his mind and vishes to be left alone; and then he dies,
previously cuttin' his own hair and makin' one flat curl in the
wery middle of his forehead.'
This anecdote produced an extraordinary effect, not only upon Mr.
Slithers, but upon the housekeeper also, who evinced so much
anxiety to please and be pleased, that Mr. Weller, with a manner
betokening some alarm, conveyed a whispered inquiry to his son
whether he had gone 'too fur.'
'Wot do you mean by too fur?' demanded Sam.
'In that 'ere little compliment respectin' the want of hock'erdness
in ladies, Sammy,' replied his father.
'You don't think she's fallen in love with you in consekens o'
that, do you?' said Sam.
'More unlikelier things have come to pass, my boy,' replied Mr.
Weller in a hoarse whisper; 'I'm always afeerd of inadwertent
captiwation, Sammy. If I know'd how to make myself ugly or
unpleasant, I'd do it, Samivel, rayther than live in this here
state of perpetival terror!'
Mr. Weller had, at that time, no further opportunity of dwelling
upon the apprehensions which beset his mind, for the immediate
occasion of his fears proceeded to lead the way down-stairs,
apologising as they went for conducting him into the kitchen, which
apartment, however, she was induced to proffer for his
accommodation in preference to her own little room, the rather as
it afforded greater facilities for smoking, and was immediately
adjoining the ale-cellar. The preparations which were already made
sufficiently proved that these were not mere words of course, for
on the deal table were a sturdy ale-jug and glasses, flanked with
clean pipes and a plentiful supply of tobacco for the old gentleman
and his son, while on a dresser hard by was goodly store of cold
meat and other eatables. At sight of these arrangements Mr. Weller
was at first distracted between his love of joviality and his
doubts whether they were not to be considered as so many evidences
of captivation having already taken place; but he soon yielded to
his natural impulse, and took his seat at the table with a very
'As to imbibin' any o' this here flagrant veed, mum, in the
presence of a lady,' said Mr. Weller, taking up a pipe and laying
it down again, 'it couldn't be. Samivel, total abstinence, if YOU
'But I like it of all things,' said the housekeeper.
'No,' rejoined Mr. Weller, shaking his head, - 'no.'
'Upon my word I do,' said the housekeeper. 'Mr. Slithers knows I
Mr. Weller coughed, and notwithstanding the barber's confirmation
of the statement, said 'No' again, but more feebly than before.
The housekeeper lighted a piece of paper, and insisted on applying
it to the bowl of the pipe with her own fair hands; Mr. Weller
resisted; the housekeeper cried that her fingers would be burnt;
Mr. Weller gave way. The pipe was ignited, Mr. Weller drew a long
puff of smoke, and detecting himself in the very act of smiling on
the housekeeper, put a sudden constraint upon his countenance and
looked sternly at the candle, with a determination not to
captivate, himself, or encourage thoughts of captivation in others.
From this iron frame of mind he was roused by the voice of his son.
'I don't think,' said Sam, who was smoking with great composure and
enjoyment, 'that if the lady wos agreeable it 'ud be wery far out
o' the vay for us four to make up a club of our own like the
governors does up-stairs, and let him,' Sam pointed with the stem
of his pipe towards his parent, 'be the president.'
The housekeeper affably declared that it was the very thing she had
been thinking of. The barber said the same. Mr. Weller said
nothing, but he laid down his pipe as if in a fit of inspiration,
and performed the following manoeuvres.
Unbuttoning the three lower buttons of his waistcoat and pausing
for a moment to enjoy the easy flow of breath consequent upon this
process, he laid violent hands upon his watch-chain, and slowly and
with extreme difficulty drew from his fob an immense double-cased
silver watch, which brought the lining of the pocket with it, and
was not to be disentangled but by great exertions and an amazing
redness of face. Having fairly got it out at last, he detached the
outer case and wound it up with a key of corresponding magnitude;
then put the case on again, and having applied the watch to his ear
to ascertain that it was still going, gave it some half-dozen hard
knocks on the table to improve its performance.
'That,' said Mr. Weller, laying it on the table with its face
upwards, 'is the title and emblem o' this here society. Sammy,
reach them two stools this vay for the wacant cheers. Ladies and
gen'lmen, Mr. Weller's Watch is vound up and now a-goin'. Order!'
By way of enforcing this proclamation, Mr. Weller, using the watch
after the manner of a president's hammer, and remarking with great
pride that nothing hurt it, and that falls and concussions of all
kinds materially enhanced the excellence of the works and assisted
the regulator, knocked the table a great many times, and declared
the association formally constituted.
'And don't let's have no grinnin' at the cheer, Samivel,' said Mr.
Weller to his son, 'or I shall be committin' you to the cellar, and
then p'r'aps we may get into what the 'Merrikins call a fix, and
the English a qvestion o' privileges.'
Having uttered this friendly caution, the President settled himself
in his chair with great dignity, and requested that Mr. Samuel
would relate an anecdote.
'I've told one,' said Sam.
'Wery good, sir; tell another,' returned the chair.
'We wos a talking jist now, sir,' said Sam, turning to Slithers,
'about barbers. Pursuing that 'ere fruitful theme, sir, I'll tell
you in a wery few words a romantic little story about another
barber as p'r'aps you may never have heerd.'
'Samivel!' said Mr. Weller, again bringing his watch and the table
into smart collision, 'address your obserwations to the cheer, sir,
and not to priwate indiwiduals!'
'And if I might rise to order,' said the barber in a soft voice,
and looking round him with a conciliatory smile as he leant over
the table, with the knuckles of his left hand resting upon it, -
'if I MIGHT rise to order, I would suggest that "barbers" is not
exactly the kind of language which is agreeable and soothing to our
feelings. You, sir, will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe
there IS such a word in the dictionary as hairdressers.'
'Well, but suppose he wasn't a hairdresser,' suggested Sam.
'Wy then, sir, be parliamentary and call him vun all the more,'
returned his father. 'In the same vay as ev'ry gen'lman in another
place is a Honourable, ev'ry barber in this place is a hairdresser.
Ven you read the speeches in the papers, and see as vun gen'lman
says of another, "the Honourable member, if he vill allow me to
call him so," you vill understand, sir, that that means, "if he
vill allow me to keep up that 'ere pleasant and uniwersal
It is a common remark, confirmed by history and experience, that
great men rise with the circumstances in which they are placed.
Mr. Weller came out so strong in his capacity of chairman, that Sam
was for some time prevented from speaking by a grin of surprise,
which held his faculties enchained, and at last subsided in a long
whistle of a single note. Nay, the old gentleman appeared even to
have astonished himself, and that to no small extent, as was
demonstrated by the vast amount of chuckling in which he indulged,
after the utterance of these lucid remarks.
'Here's the story,' said Sam. 'Vunce upon a time there wos a young
hairdresser as opened a wery smart little shop vith four wax
dummies in the winder, two gen'lmen and two ladies - the gen'lmen
vith blue dots for their beards, wery large viskers, oudacious
heads of hair, uncommon clear eyes, and nostrils of amazin'
pinkness; the ladies vith their heads o' one side, their right
forefingers on their lips, and their forms deweloped beautiful, in
vich last respect they had the adwantage over the gen'lmen, as
wasn't allowed but wery little shoulder, and terminated rayther
abrupt in fancy drapery. He had also a many hair-brushes and
tooth-brushes bottled up in the winder, neat glass-cases on the
counter, a floor-clothed cuttin'-room up-stairs, and a weighin'-
macheen in the shop, right opposite the door. But the great
attraction and ornament wos the dummies, which this here young
hairdresser wos constantly a runnin' out in the road to look at,
and constantly a runnin' in again to touch up and polish; in short,
he wos so proud on 'em, that ven Sunday come, he wos always
wretched and mis'rable to think they wos behind the shutters, and
looked anxiously for Monday on that account. Vun o' these dummies
wos a favrite vith him beyond the others; and ven any of his
acquaintance asked him wy he didn't get married - as the young
ladies he know'd, in partickler, often did - he used to say,
"Never! I never vill enter into the bonds of vedlock," he says,
"until I meet vith a young 'ooman as realises my idea o' that 'ere
fairest dummy vith the light hair. Then, and not till then," he
says, "I vill approach the altar." All the young ladies he know'd
as had got dark hair told him this wos wery sinful, and that he wos
wurshippin' a idle; but them as wos at all near the same shade as
the dummy coloured up wery much, and wos observed to think him a
wery nice young man.'
'Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, gravely, 'a member o' this associashun
bein' one o' that 'ere tender sex which is now immedetly referred
to, I have to rekvest that you vill make no reflections.'
'I ain't a makin' any, am I?' inquired Sam.
'Order, sir!' rejoined Mr. Weller, with severe dignity. Then,
sinking the chairman in the father, he added, in his usual tone of
voice: 'Samivel, drive on!'
Sam interchanged a smile with the housekeeper, and proceeded:
'The young hairdresser hadn't been in the habit o' makin' this
avowal above six months, ven he en-countered a young lady as wos
the wery picter o' the fairest dummy. "Now," he says, "it's all
up. I am a slave!" The young lady wos not only the picter o' the
fairest dummy, but she was wery romantic, as the young hairdresser
was, too, and he says, "O!" he says, "here's a community o'
feelin', here's a flow o' soul!" he says, "here's a interchange o'
sentiment!" The young lady didn't say much, o' course, but she
expressed herself agreeable, and shortly artervards vent to see him
vith a mutual friend. The hairdresser rushes out to meet her, but
d'rectly she sees the dummies she changes colour and falls a
tremblin' wiolently. "Look up, my love," says the hairdresser,
"behold your imige in my winder, but not correcter than in my art!"
"My imige!" she says. "Yourn!" replies the hairdresser. "But
whose imige is THAT?" she says, a pinting at vun o' the gen'lmen.
"No vun's, my love," he says, "it is but a idea." "A idea! " she
cries: "it is a portrait, I feel it is a portrait, and that 'ere
noble face must be in the millingtary!" "Wot do I hear!" says he,
a crumplin' his curls. "Villiam Gibbs," she says, quite firm,
"never renoo the subject. I respect you as a friend," she says,
"but my affections is set upon that manly brow." "This," says the
hairdresser, "is a reg'lar blight, and in it I perceive the hand of
Fate. Farevell!" Vith these vords he rushes into the shop, breaks
the dummy's nose vith a blow of his curlin'-irons, melts him down
at the parlour fire, and never smiles artervards.'
'The young lady, Mr. Weller?' said the housekeeper.
'Why, ma'am,' said Sam, 'finding that Fate had a spite agin her,
and everybody she come into contact vith, she never smiled neither,
but read a deal o' poetry and pined avay, - by rayther slow
degrees, for she ain't dead yet. It took a deal o' poetry to kill
the hair-dresser, and some people say arter all that it was more
the gin and water as caused him to be run over; p'r'aps it was a
little o' both, and came o' mixing the two.'
The barber declared that Mr. Weller had related one of the most
interesting stories that had ever come within his knowledge, in
which opinion the housekeeper entirely concurred.
'Are you a married man, sir?' inquired Sam.
The barber replied that he had not that honour.
'I s'pose you mean to be?' said Sam.
'Well,' replied the barber, rubbing his hands smirkingly, 'I don't
know, I don't think it's very likely.'
'That's a bad sign,' said Sam; 'if you'd said you meant to be vun
o' these days, I should ha' looked upon you as bein' safe. You're
in a wery precarious state.'
'I am not conscious of any danger, at all events,' returned the
'No more wos I, sir,' said the elder Mr. Weller, interposing;
'those vere my symptoms, exactly. I've been took that vay twice.
Keep your vether eye open, my friend, or you're gone.'
There was something so very solemn about this admonition, both in
its matter and manner, and also in the way in which Mr. Weller
still kept his eye fixed upon the unsuspecting victim, that nobody
cared to speak for some little time, and might not have cared to do
so for some time longer, if the housekeeper had not happened to
sigh, which called off the old gentleman's attention and gave rise
to a gallant inquiry whether 'there wos anythin' wery piercin' in
that 'ere little heart?'
'Dear me, Mr. Weller!' said the housekeeper, laughing.
'No, but is there anythin' as agitates it?' pursued the old
gentleman. 'Has it always been obderrate, always opposed to the
happiness o' human creeturs? Eh? Has it?'
At this critical juncture for her blushes and confusion, the
housekeeper discovered that more ale was wanted, and hastily
withdrew into the cellar to draw the same, followed by the barber,
who insisted on carrying the candle. Having looked after her with
a very complacent expression of face, and after him with some
disdain, Mr. Weller caused his glance to travel slowly round the
kitchen, until at length it rested on his son.
'Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, 'I mistrust that barber.'
'Wot for?' returned Sam; 'wot's he got to do with you? You're a
nice man, you are, arter pretendin' all kinds o' terror, to go a
payin' compliments and talkin' about hearts and piercers.'
The imputation of gallantry appeared to afford Mr. Weller the
utmost delight, for he replied in a voice choked by suppressed
laughter, and with the tears in his eyes,
'Wos I a talkin' about hearts and piercers, - wos I though, Sammy,
'Wos you? of course you wos.'
'She don't know no better, Sammy, there ain't no harm in it, - no
danger, Sammy; she's only a punster. She seemed pleased, though,
didn't she? O' course, she wos pleased, it's nat'ral she should
be, wery nat'ral.'
'He's wain of it!' exclaimed Sam, joining in his father's mirth.
'He's actually wain!'
'Hush!' replied Mr. Weller, composing his features, 'they're a
comin' back, - the little heart's a comin' back. But mark these
wurds o' mine once more, and remember 'em ven your father says he
said 'em. Samivel, I mistrust that 'ere deceitful barber.'
CHAPTER VI - MASTER HUMPHREY, FROM HIS CLOCK-SIDE IN THE CHIMNEY
TWO or three evenings after the institution of Mr. Weller's Watch,
I thought I heard, as I walked in the garden, the voice of Mr.
Weller himself at no great distance; and stopping once or twice to
listen more attentively, I found that the sounds proceeded from my
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