The Pickwick Papers
Part 1 out of 20
THE PICKWICK PAPERS
1. The Pickwickians
2. The first Day's Journey, and the first Evening's
Adventures; with their Consequences
3. A new Acquaintance--The Stroller's Tale--A
disagreeable Interruption, and an unpleasant
4. A Field Day and Bivouac--More new Friends--An
Invitation to the Country
5. A short one--Showing, among other Matters, how
Mr. Pickwick undertook to drive, and Mr. Winkle
to ride, and how they both did it
6. An old-fashioned Card-party--The Clergyman's
verses--The Story of the Convict's Return
7. How Mr. Winkle, instead of shooting at the Pigeon
and killing the Crow, shot at the Crow and
wounded the Pigeon; how the Dingley Dell
Cricket Club played All-Muggleton, and how All-
Muggleton dined at the Dingley Dell Expense;
with other interesting and instructive Matters
8. Strongly illustrative of the Position, that the
Course of True Love is not a Railway
9. A Discovery and a Chase
10. Clearing up all Doubts (if any existed) of the
Disinterestedness of Mr. A. Jingle's Character
11. Involving another Journey, and an Antiquarian
Discovery; Recording Mr. Pickwick's Determination
to be present at an Election; and containing
a Manuscript of the old Clergyman's
12. Descriptive of a very important Proceeding on
the Part of Mr. Pickwick; no less an Epoch in his
Life, than in this History
13. Some Account of Eatanswill; of the State of
Parties therein; and of the Election of a Member
to serve in Parliament for that ancient, loyal,
and patriotic Borough
14. Comprising a brief Description of the Company
at the Peacock assembled; and a Tale told by a
15. In which is given a faithful Portraiture of two
distinguished Persons; and an accurate Description
of a public Breakfast in their House and Grounds:
which public Breakfast leads to the Recognition
of an old Acquaintance, and the Commencement of
16. Too full of Adventure to be briefly described
17. Showing that an Attack of Rheumatism, in some
Cases, acts as a Quickener to inventive Genius
18. Briefly illustrative of two Points; first, the
Power of Hysterics, and, secondly, the Force of
19. A pleasant Day with an unpleasant Termination
20. Showing how Dodson and Fogg were Men of
Business, and their Clerks Men of pleasure; and
how an affecting Interview took place between
Mr. Weller and his long-lost Parent; showing also
what Choice Spirits assembled at the Magpie and
Stump, and what a Capital Chapter the next one
21. In which the old Man launches forth into his
favourite Theme, and relates a Story about a
22. Mr. Pickwick journeys to Ipswich and meets with
a romantic Adventure with a middle-aged Lady
in yellow Curl-papers
23. In which Mr. Samuel Weller begins to devote his
Energies to the Return Match between himself
and Mr. Trotter
24. Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the
middle-aged Lady apprehensive, which brings the
Pickwickians within the Grasp of the Law
25. Showing, among a Variety of pleasant Matters,
how majestic and impartial Mr. Nupkins was; and
how Mr. Weller returned Mr. Job Trotter's
Shuttlecock as heavily as it came--With another
Matter, which will be found in its Place
26. Which contains a brief Account of the Progress
of the Action of Bardell against Pickwick
27. Samuel Weller makes a Pilgrimage to Dorking,
and beholds his Mother-in-law
28. A good-humoured Christmas Chapter, containing
an Account of a Wedding, and some other Sports
beside: which although in their Way even as good
Customs as Marriage itself, are not quite so
religiously kept up, in these degenerate Times
29. The Story of the Goblins who stole a Sexton
30. How the Pickwickians made and cultivated the
Acquaintance of a Couple of nice young Men
belonging to one of the liberal Professions; how
they disported themselves on the Ice; and how
their Visit came to a Conclusion
31. Which is all about the Law, and sundry Great
Authorities learned therein
32. Describes, far more fully than the Court Newsman
ever did, a Bachelor's Party, given by Mr.
Bob Sawyer at his Lodgings in the Borough
33. Mr. Weller the elder delivers some Critical Sentiments
respecting Literary Composition; and,
assisted by his Son Samuel, pays a small Instalment
of Retaliation to the Account of the Reverend
Gentleman with the Red Nose
34. Is wholly devoted to a full and faithful Report
of the memorable Trial of Bardell against Pickwick
35. In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to
Bath; and goes accordingly
36. The chief Features of which will be found to be
an authentic Version of the Legend of Prince
Bladud, and a most extraordinary Calamity that
befell Mr. Winkle
37. Honourably accounts for Mr. Weller's Absence,
by describing a Soiree to which he was invited
and went; also relates how he was intrusted by
Mr. Pickwick with a Private Mission of Delicacy
38. How Mr. Winkle, when he stepped out of the
Frying-pan, walked gently and comfortably into
39. Mr. Samuel Weller, being intrusted with a Mission
of Love, proceeds to execute it; with what Success
will hereinafter appear
40. Introduces Mr. Pickwick to a new and not uninteresting
Scene in the great Drama of Life
41. Whatt befell Mr. Pickwick when he got into the
Fleet; what Prisoners he saw there; and how he
passed the Night
42. Illustrative, like the preceding one, of the old
Proverb, that Adversity brings a Man acquainted
with strange Bedfellows--Likewise containing Mr.
Pickwick's extraordinary and startling Announcement
to Mr. Samuel Weller
43. Showing how Mr. Samuel Weller got into Difficulties
44. Treats of divers little Matters which occurred
in the Fleet, and of Mr. Winkle's mysterious
Behaviour; and shows how the poor Chancery
Prisoner obtained his Release at last
45. Descriptive of an affecting Interview between Mr.
Samuel Weller and a Family Party. Mr. Pickwick
makes a Tour of the diminutive World he
inhabits, and resolves to mix with it, in Future,
as little as possible
46. Records a touching Act of delicate Feeling not
unmixed with Pleasantry, achieved and performed
by Messrs. Dodson and Fogg
47. Is chiefly devoted to Matters of Business,
and the temporal Advantage of Dodson and Fogg--
Mr. Winkle reappears under extraordinary
Circumstances--Mr. Pickwick's Benevolence proves
stronger than his Obstinacy
48. Relates how Mr. Pickwick, with the Assistance
of Samuel Weller, essayed to soften the Heart
of Mr. Benjamin Allen, and to mollify the Wrath
of Mr. Robert Sawyer
49. Containing the Story of the Bagman's Uncle
50. How Mr. Pickwick sped upon his Mission, and how
he was reinforced in the Outset by a most
51. In which Mr. Pickwick encounters an old
Acquaintance--To which fortunate Circumstance
the Reader is mainly indebted for Matter of
thrilling Interest herein set down, concerning
two great Public Men of Might and Power
52. Involving a serious Change in the Weller Family,
and the untimely Downfall of Mr. Stiggins
53. Comprising the final Exit of Mr. Jingle and Job
Trotter, with a great Morning of business in
Gray's Inn Square--Concluding with a Double
Knock at Mr. Perker's Door
54. Containing some Particulars relative to the
Double Knock, and other Matters: among which
certain interesting Disclosures relative to Mr.
Snodgrass and a Young Lady are by no Means
irrelevant to this History
55. Mr. Solomon Pell, assisted by a Select Committee
of Coachmen, arranges the affairs of the elder
56. An important Conference takes place between
Mr. Pickwick and Samuel Weller, at which his
Parent assists--An old Gentleman in a snuff-
coloured Suit arrives unexpectedly
57. In which the Pickwick Club is finally dissolved,
and everything concluded to the Satisfaction
THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS
THE PICKWICK CLUB
The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts
into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier
history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would
appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following
entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor
of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his
readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity,
and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious
documents confided to him has been conducted.
'May 12, 1827. Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C. [Perpetual
Vice-President--Member Pickwick Club], presiding. The following
resolutions unanimously agreed to:--
'That this Association has heard read, with feelings of unmingled
satisfaction, and unqualified approval, the paper communicated by Samuel
Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C. [General Chairman--Member Pickwick Club],
entitled "Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some
Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats;" and that this Association
does hereby return its warmest thanks to the said Samuel
Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., for the same.
'That while this Association is deeply sensible of the advantages
which must accrue to the cause of science, from the production
to which they have just adverted--no less than from the unwearied
researches of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., in Hornsey,
Highgate, Brixton, and Camberwell--they cannot but entertain
a lively sense of the inestimable benefits which must inevitably
result from carrying the speculations of that learned man into a
wider field, from extending his travels, and, consequently,
enlarging his sphere of observation, to the advancement of
knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.
'That, with the view just mentioned, this Association has taken
into its serious consideration a proposal, emanating from the
aforesaid, Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., and three other
Pickwickians hereinafter named, for forming a new branch of
United Pickwickians, under the title of The Corresponding
Society of the Pickwick Club.
'That the said proposal has received the sanction and approval
of this Association.
'That the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club is
therefore hereby constituted; and that Samuel Pickwick, Esq.,
G.C.M.P.C., Tracy Tupman, Esq., M.P.C., Augustus Snodgrass,
Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel Winkle, Esq., M.P.C., are hereby
nominated and appointed members of the same; and that they
be requested to forward, from time to time, authenticated
accounts of their journeys and investigations, of their observations
of character and manners, and of the whole of their
adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local
scenery or associations may give rise, to the Pickwick Club,
stationed in London.
'That this Association cordially recognises the principle of
every member of the Corresponding Society defraying his own
travelling expenses; and that it sees no objection whatever to the
members of the said society pursuing their inquiries for any
length of time they please, upon the same terms.
'That the members of the aforesaid Corresponding Society be,
and are hereby informed, that their proposal to pay the postage
of their letters, and the carriage of their parcels, has been
deliberated upon by this Association: that this Association
considers such proposal worthy of the great minds from which it
emanated, and that it hereby signifies its perfect acquiescence
A casual observer, adds the secretary, to whose notes we are
indebted for the following account--a casual observer might
possibly have remarked nothing extraordinary in the bald head,
and circular spectacles, which were intently turned towards his
(the secretary's) face, during the reading of the above resolutions:
to those who knew that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was
working beneath that forehead, and that the beaming eyes of
Pickwick were twinkling behind those glasses, the sight was
indeed an interesting one. There sat the man who had traced to
their source the mighty ponds of Hampstead, and agitated the
scientific world with his Theory of Tittlebats, as calm and
unmoved as the deep waters of the one on a frosty day, or as a
solitary specimen of the other in the inmost recesses of an earthen
jar. And how much more interesting did the spectacle become,
when, starting into full life and animation, as a simultaneous call
for 'Pickwick' burst from his followers, that illustrious man
slowly mounted into the Windsor chair, on which he had been
previously seated, and addressed the club himself had founded.
What a study for an artist did that exciting scene present! The
eloquent Pickwick, with one hand gracefully concealed behind
his coat tails, and the other waving in air to assist his glowing
declamation; his elevated position revealing those tights and
gaiters, which, had they clothed an ordinary man, might have
passed without observation, but which, when Pickwick clothed
them--if we may use the expression--inspired involuntary awe
and respect; surrounded by the men who had volunteered to
share the perils of his travels, and who were destined to participate
in the glories of his discoveries. On his right sat Mr. Tracy
Tupman--the too susceptible Tupman, who to the wisdom and
experience of maturer years superadded the enthusiasm and
ardour of a boy in the most interesting and pardonable of human
weaknesses--love. Time and feeding had expanded that once
romantic form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and
more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath
it disappeared from within the range of Tupman's vision; and
gradually had the capacious chin encroached upon the borders of
the white cravat: but the soul of Tupman had known no change
--admiration of the fair sex was still its ruling passion. On the
left of his great leader sat the poetic Snodgrass, and near him
again the sporting Winkle; the former poetically enveloped in a
mysterious blue cloak with a canine-skin collar, and the latter
communicating additional lustre to a new green shooting-coat,
plaid neckerchief, and closely-fitted drabs.
Mr. Pickwick's oration upon this occasion, together with the
debate thereon, is entered on the Transactions of the Club. Both
bear a strong affinity to the discussions of other celebrated
bodies; and, as it is always interesting to trace a resemblance
between the proceedings of great men, we transfer the entry to
'Mr. Pickwick observed (says the secretary) that fame was dear
to the heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart of
his friend Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear to
his friend Tupman; and the desire of earning fame in the sports
of the field, the air, and the water was uppermost in the breast of
his friend Winkle. He (Mr. Pickwick) would not deny that he was
influenced by human passions and human feelings (cheers)--
possibly by human weaknesses (loud cries of "No"); but this he
would say, that if ever the fire of self-importance broke out in his
bosom, the desire to benefit the human race in preference
effectually quenched it. The praise of mankind was his swing;
philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement cheering.) He
had felt some pride--he acknowledged it freely, and let his
enemies make the most of it--he had felt some pride when he
presented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might be
celebrated or it might not. (A cry of "It is," and great cheering.)
He would take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickian
whose voice he had just heard--it was celebrated; but if the fame
of that treatise were to extend to the farthest confines of the
known world, the pride with which he should reflect on the
authorship of that production would be as nothing compared
with the pride with which he looked around him, on this, the
proudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was a humble
individual. ("No, no.") Still he could not but feel that they had
selected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger.
Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmen
were unsettled. Let them look abroad and contemplate the scenes
which were enacting around them. Stage-coaches were upsetting
in all directions, horses were bolting, boats were overturning, and
boilers were bursting. (Cheers--a voice "No.") No! (Cheers.)
Let that honourable Pickwickian who cried "No" so loudly
come forward and deny it, if he could. (Cheers.) Who was it that
cried "No"? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it some vain and
disappointed man--he would not say haberdasher (loud cheers)
--who, jealous of the praise which had been--perhaps undeservedly--
bestowed on his (Mr. Pickwick's) researches, and smarting under
the censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts at
rivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of---
'Mr. BLOTTON (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable
Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of "Order," "Chair," "Yes,"
"No," "Go on," "Leave off," etc.)
'Mr. PICKWICK would not put up to be put down by clamour.
He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)
'Mr. BLOTTON would only say then, that he repelled the hon.
gent.'s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt.
(Great cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion,
and loud cries of "Chair," and "Order.")
'Mr. A. SNODGRASS rose to order. He threw himself upon the
chair. (Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgraceful
contest between two members of that club should be allowed to
continue. (Hear, hear.)
'The CHAIRMAN was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would
withdraw the expression he had just made use of.
'Mr. BLOTTON, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite
sure he would not.
'The CHAIRMAN felt it his imperative duty to demand of the
honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which
had just escaped him in a common sense.
'Mr. BLOTTON had no hesitation in saying that he had not--he
had used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He was
bound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the
highest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had
merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view.
'Mr. PICKWICK felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full
explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once
understood, that his own observations had been merely intended
to bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)'
Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate did
also, after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligible
point. We have no official statement of the facts which the reader
will find recorded in the next chapter, but they have been carefully
collated from letters and other MS. authorities, so unquestionably
genuine as to justify their narration in a connected form.
THE FIRST DAY'S JOURNEY, AND THE FIRST EVENING'S
ADVENTURES; WITH THEIR CONSEQUENCES
That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, and
begun to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May,
one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr. Samuel
Pickwick burst like another sun from his slumbers, threw open his
chamber window, and looked out upon the world beneath. Goswell
Street was at his feet, Goswell Street was on his right hand--as
far as the eye could reach, Goswell Street extended on his left;
and the opposite side of Goswell Street was over the way. 'Such,'
thought Mr. Pickwick, 'are the narrow views of those philosophers
who, content with examining the things that lie before them, look
not to the truths which are hidden beyond. As well might I be
content to gaze on Goswell Street for ever, without one effort to
penetrate to the hidden countries which on every side surround
it.' And having given vent to this beautiful reflection, Mr.
Pickwick proceeded to put himself into his clothes, and his
clothes into his portmanteau. Great men are seldom over
scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire; the operation of
shaving, dressing, and coffee-imbibing was soon performed; and, in
another hour, Mr. Pickwick, with his portmanteau in his hand, his
telescope in his greatcoat pocket, and his note-book in his
waistcoat, ready for the reception of any discoveries worthy of
being noted down, had arrived at the coach-stand in
'Cab!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Here you are, sir,' shouted a strange specimen of the human
race, in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same, who, with a brass
label and number round his neck, looked as if he were catalogued
in some collection of rarities. This was the waterman. 'Here you
are, sir. Now, then, fust cab!' And the first cab having been
fetched from the public-house, where he had been smoking his
first pipe, Mr. Pickwick and his portmanteau were thrown into
'Golden Cross,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Only a bob's vorth, Tommy,' cried the driver sulkily, for the
information of his friend the waterman, as the cab drove off.
'How old is that horse, my friend?' inquired Mr. Pickwick,
rubbing his nose with the shilling he had reserved for the fare.
'Forty-two,' replied the driver, eyeing him askant.
'What!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, laying his hand upon his
note-book. The driver reiterated his former statement. Mr.
Pickwick looked very hard at the man's face, but his features
were immovable, so he noted down the fact forthwith.
'And how long do you keep him out at a time?'inquired Mr.
Pickwick, searching for further information.
'Two or three veeks,' replied the man.
'Weeks!' said Mr. Pickwick in astonishment, and out came the
'He lives at Pentonwil when he's at home,' observed the driver
coolly, 'but we seldom takes him home, on account of his weakness.'
'On account of his weakness!' reiterated the perplexed Mr. Pickwick.
'He always falls down when he's took out o' the cab,' continued
the driver, 'but when he's in it, we bears him up werry
tight, and takes him in werry short, so as he can't werry well fall
down; and we've got a pair o' precious large wheels on, so ven he
does move, they run after him, and he must go on--he can't
Mr. Pickwick entered every word of this statement in his note-
book, with the view of communicating it to the club, as a singular
instance of the tenacity of life in horses under trying circumstances.
The entry was scarcely completed when they reached the
Golden Cross. Down jumped the driver, and out got Mr. Pickwick.
Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Winkle, who had
been anxiously waiting the arrival of their illustrious leader,
crowded to welcome him.
'Here's your fare,' said Mr. Pickwick, holding out the shilling
to the driver.
What was the learned man's astonishment, when that unaccountable
person flung the money on the pavement, and
requested in figurative terms to be allowed the pleasure of fighting
him (Mr. Pickwick) for the amount!
'You are mad,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Or drunk,' said Mr. Winkle.
'Or both,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Come on!' said the cab-driver, sparring away like clockwork.
'Come on--all four on you.'
'Here's a lark!' shouted half a dozen hackney coachmen. 'Go
to vork, Sam!--and they crowded with great glee round the
'What's the row, Sam?' inquired one gentleman in black calico sleeves.
'Row!' replied the cabman, 'what did he want my number for?'
'I didn't want your number,' said the astonished Mr. Pickwick.
'What did you take it for, then?' inquired the cabman.
'I didn't take it,' said Mr. Pickwick indignantly.
'Would anybody believe,' continued the cab-driver, appealing
to the crowd, 'would anybody believe as an informer'ud go about
in a man's cab, not only takin' down his number, but ev'ry word
he says into the bargain' (a light flashed upon Mr. Pickwick--it
was the note-book).
'Did he though?' inquired another cabman.
'Yes, did he,' replied the first; 'and then arter aggerawatin' me
to assault him, gets three witnesses here to prove it. But I'll give it
him, if I've six months for it. Come on!' and the cabman dashed
his hat upon the ground, with a reckless disregard of his own
private property, and knocked Mr. Pickwick's spectacles off, and
followed up the attack with a blow on Mr. Pickwick's nose, and
another on Mr. Pickwick's chest, and a third in Mr. Snodgrass's
eye, and a fourth, by way of variety, in Mr. Tupman's waistcoat,
and then danced into the road, and then back again to the pavement,
and finally dashed the whole temporary supply of breath
out of Mr. Winkle's body; and all in half a dozen seconds.
'Where's an officer?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Put 'em under the pump,' suggested a hot-pieman.
'You shall smart for this,' gasped Mr. Pickwick.
'Informers!' shouted the crowd.
'Come on,' cried the cabman, who had been sparring without
cessation the whole time.
The mob hitherto had been passive spectators of the scene, but
as the intelligence of the Pickwickians being informers was spread
among them, they began to canvass with considerable vivacity
the propriety of enforcing the heated pastry-vendor's proposition:
and there is no saying what acts of personal aggression they
might have committed, had not the affray been unexpectedly
terminated by the interposition of a new-comer.
'What's the fun?' said a rather tall, thin, young man, in a green
coat, emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.
'informers!' shouted the crowd again.
'We are not,' roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to any
dispassionate listener, carried conviction with it.
'Ain't you, though--ain't you?' said the young man, appealing
to Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by the
infallible process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.
That learned man in a few hurried words explained the real
state of the case.
'Come along, then,' said he of the green coat, lugging Mr.
Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way.
Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off--respectable
gentleman--know him well--none of your nonsense--this way,
sir--where's your friends?--all a mistake, I see--never mind--
accidents will happen--best regulated families--never say die--
down upon your luck--Pull him UP--Put that in his pipe--like
the flavour--damned rascals.' And with a lengthened string of
similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility,
the stranger led the way to the traveller's waiting-room, whither
he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.
'Here, waiter!' shouted the stranger, ringing the bell with
tremendous violence, 'glasses round--brandy-and-water, hot and
strong, and sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, Sir? Waiter! raw
beef-steak for the gentleman's eye--nothing like raw beef-steak
for a bruise, sir; cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post
inconvenient--damned odd standing in the open street half an
hour, with your eye against a lamp-post--eh,--very good--
ha! ha!' And the stranger, without stopping to take breath,
swallowed at a draught full half a pint of the reeking brandy-and-
water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as if
nothing uncommon had occurred.
While his three companions were busily engaged in proffering
their thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisure
to examine his costume and appearance.
He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body,
and the length of his legs, gave him the appearance of being
much taller. The green coat had been a smart dress garment in the
days of swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorned
a much shorter man than the stranger, for the soiled and faded
sleeves scarcely reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely up
to his chin, at the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and an
old stock, without a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck.
His scanty black trousers displayed here and there those shiny
patches which bespeak long service, and were strapped very
tightly over a pair of patched and mended shoes, as if to conceal
the dirty white stockings, which were nevertheless distinctly
visible. His long, black hair escaped in negligent waves from
beneath each side of his old pinched-up hat; and glimpses of his
bare wrists might be observed between the tops of his gloves and
the cuffs of his coat sleeves. His face was thin and haggard; but
an indescribable air of jaunty impudence and perfect self-
possession pervaded the whole man.
Such was the individual on whom Mr. Pickwick gazed through
his spectacles (which he had fortunately recovered), and to whom
he proceeded, when his friends had exhausted themselves, to
return in chosen terms his warmest thanks for his recent assistance.
'Never mind,' said the stranger, cutting the address very short,
'said enough--no more; smart chap that cabman--handled
his fives well; but if I'd been your friend in the green jemmy--
damn me--punch his head,--'cod I would,--pig's whisper--
pieman too,--no gammon.'
This coherent speech was interrupted by the entrance of the
Rochester coachman, to announce that 'the Commodore' was on
the point of starting.
'Commodore!' said the stranger, starting up, 'my coach--
place booked,--one outside--leave you to pay for the brandy-
and-water,--want change for a five,--bad silver--Brummagem
buttons--won't do--no go--eh?' and he shook his head most knowingly.
Now it so happened that Mr. Pickwick and his three
companions had resolved to make Rochester their first halting-place
too; and having intimated to their new-found acquaintance that
they were journeying to the same city, they agreed to occupy the
seat at the back of the coach, where they could all sit together.
'Up with you,' said the stranger, assisting Mr. Pickwick on to
the roof with so much precipitation as to impair the gravity of
that gentleman's deportment very materially.
'Any luggage, Sir?' inquired the coachman.
'Who--I? Brown paper parcel here, that's all--other luggage
gone by water--packing-cases, nailed up--big as houses--
heavy, heavy, damned heavy,' replied the stranger, as he forced
into his pocket as much as he could of the brown paper parcel,
which presented most suspicious indications of containing one
shirt and a handkerchief.
'Heads, heads--take care of your heads!' cried the loquacious
stranger, as they came out under the low archway, which in those
days formed the entrance to the coach-yard. 'Terrible place--
dangerous work--other day--five children--mother--tall lady,
eating sandwiches--forgot the arch--crash--knock--children
look round--mother's head off--sandwich in her hand--no
mouth to put it in--head of a family off--shocking, shocking!
Looking at Whitehall, sir?--fine place--little window--somebody
else's head off there, eh, sir?--he didn't keep a sharp
look-out enough either--eh, Sir, eh?'
'I am ruminating,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'on the strange
mutability of human affairs.'
'Ah! I see--in at the palace door one day, out at the window
the next. Philosopher, Sir?'
'An observer of human nature, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah, so am I. Most people are when they've little to do and less
to get. Poet, Sir?'
'My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a strong poetic turn,' said
'So have I,' said the stranger. 'Epic poem--ten thousand lines
--revolution of July--composed it on the spot--Mars by day,
Apollo by night--bang the field-piece, twang the lyre.'
'You were present at that glorious scene, sir?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Present! think I was;* fired a musket--fired with an idea--
rushed into wine shop--wrote it down--back again--whiz, bang
--another idea--wine shop again--pen and ink--back again--
cut and slash--noble time, Sir. Sportsman, sir ?'abruptly turning
to Mr. Winkle.
[* A remarkable instance of the prophetic force of Mr.
Jingle's imagination; this dialogue occurring in the year
1827, and the Revolution in 1830.
'A little, Sir,' replied that gentleman.
'Fine pursuit, sir--fine pursuit.--Dogs, Sir?'
'Not just now,' said Mr. Winkle.
'Ah! you should keep dogs--fine animals--sagacious creatures
--dog of my own once--pointer--surprising instinct--out
shooting one day--entering inclosure--whistled--dog stopped--
whistled again--Ponto--no go; stock still--called him--Ponto,
Ponto--wouldn't move--dog transfixed--staring at a board--
looked up, saw an inscription--"Gamekeeper has orders to shoot
all dogs found in this inclosure"--wouldn't pass it--wonderful
dog--valuable dog that--very.'
'Singular circumstance that,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Will you
allow me to make a note of it?'
'Certainly, Sir, certainly--hundred more anecdotes of the same
animal.--Fine girl, Sir' (to Mr. Tracy Tupman, who had been
bestowing sundry anti-Pickwickian glances on a young lady by
'Very!' said Mr. Tupman.
'English girls not so fine as Spanish--noble creatures--jet hair
--black eyes--lovely forms--sweet creatures--beautiful.'
'You have been in Spain, sir?' said Mr. Tracy Tupman.
'Many conquests, sir?' inquired Mr. Tupman.
'Conquests! Thousands. Don Bolaro Fizzgig--grandee--only
daughter--Donna Christina--splendid creature--loved me to
distraction--jealous father--high-souled daughter--handsome
Englishman--Donna Christina in despair--prussic acid--
stomach pump in my portmanteau--operation performed--old
Bolaro in ecstasies--consent to our union--join hands and floods
of tears--romantic story--very.'
'Is the lady in England now, sir?' inquired Mr. Tupman, on
whom the description of her charms had produced a powerful impression.
'Dead, sir--dead,' said the stranger, applying to his right eye
the brief remnant of a very old cambric handkerchief. 'Never
recovered the stomach pump--undermined constitution--fell a victim.'
'And her father?' inquired the poetic Snodgrass.
'Remorse and misery,' replied the stranger. 'Sudden
disappearance--talk of the whole city--search made everywhere
without success--public fountain in the great square suddenly
ceased playing--weeks elapsed--still a stoppage--workmen
employed to clean it--water drawn off--father-in-law discovered
sticking head first in the main pipe, with a full confession in his
right boot--took him out, and the fountain played away again,
as well as ever.'
'Will you allow me to note that little romance down, Sir?' said
Mr. Snodgrass, deeply affected.
'Certainly, Sir, certainly--fifty more if you like to hear 'em--
strange life mine--rather curious history--not extraordinary,
In this strain, with an occasional glass of ale, by way of
parenthesis, when the coach changed horses, did the stranger
proceed, until they reached Rochester bridge, by which time the
note-books, both of Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Snodgrass, were
completely filled with selections from his adventures.
'Magnificent ruin!' said Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, with all the
poetic fervour that distinguished him, when they came in sight of
the fine old castle.
'What a sight for an antiquarian!' were the very words which
fell from Mr. Pickwick's mouth, as he applied his telescope to his eye.
'Ah! fine place,' said the stranger, 'glorious pile--frowning
walls--tottering arches--dark nooks--crumbling staircases--old
cathedral too--earthy smell--pilgrims' feet wore away the old
steps--little Saxon doors--confessionals like money-takers'
boxes at theatres--queer customers those monks--popes, and
lord treasurers, and all sorts of old fellows, with great red faces,
and broken noses, turning up every day--buff jerkins too--
match-locks--sarcophagus--fine place--old legends too--strange
stories: capital;' and the stranger continued to soliloquise until
they reached the Bull Inn, in the High Street, where the coach stopped.
'Do you remain here, Sir?' inquired Mr. Nathaniel Winkle.
'Here--not I--but you'd better--good house--nice beds--
Wright's next house, dear--very dear--half-a-crown in the bill if
you look at the waiter--charge you more if you dine at a friend's
than they would if you dined in the coffee-room--rum fellows--very.'
Mr. Winkle turned to Mr. Pickwick, and murmured a few
words; a whisper passed from Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Snodgrass,
from Mr. Snodgrass to Mr. Tupman, and nods of assent were
exchanged. Mr. Pickwick addressed the stranger.
'You rendered us a very important service this morning, sir,'
said he, 'will you allow us to offer a slight mark of our gratitude
by begging the favour of your company at dinner?'
'Great pleasure--not presume to dictate, but broiled fowl and
mushrooms--capital thing! What time?'
'Let me see,' replied Mr. Pickwick, referring to his watch, 'it is
now nearly three. Shall we say five?'
'Suit me excellently,' said the stranger, 'five precisely--till then--care of
yourselves;' and lifting the pinched-up hat a few inches
from his head, and carelessly replacing it very much on one side,
the stranger, with half the brown paper parcel sticking out of his
pocket, walked briskly up the yard, and turned into the High Street.
'Evidently a traveller in many countries, and a close observer of
men and things,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I should like to see his poem,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'I should like to have seen that dog,' said Mr. Winkle.
Mr. Tupman said nothing; but he thought of Donna Christina,
the stomach pump, and the fountain; and his eyes filled with tears.
A private sitting-room having been engaged, bedrooms
inspected, and dinner ordered, the party walked out to view the
city and adjoining neighbourhood.
We do not find, from a careful perusal of Mr. Pickwick's notes
of the four towns, Stroud, Rochester, Chatham, and Brompton,
that his impressions of their appearance differ in any material
point from those of other travellers who have gone over the same
ground. His general description is easily abridged.
'The principal productions of these towns,' says Mr. Pickwick,
'appear to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers, and
dockyard men. The commodities chiefly exposed for sale in the
public streets are marine stores, hard-bake, apples, flat-fish, and
oysters. The streets present a lively and animated appearance,
occasioned chiefly by the conviviality of the military. It is truly
delightful to a philanthropic mind to see these gallant men
staggering along under the influence of an overflow both of
animal and ardent spirits; more especially when we remember
that the following them about, and jesting with them, affords a
cheap and innocent amusement for the boy population. Nothing,'
adds Mr. Pickwick, 'can exceed their good-humour. It was
but the day before my arrival that one of them had been most
grossly insulted in the house of a publican. The barmaid
had positively refused to draw him any more liquor; in return
for which he had (merely in playfulness) drawn his bayonet,
and wounded the girl in the shoulder. And yet this fine fellow
was the very first to go down to the house next morning and
express his readiness to overlook the matter, and forget what
'The consumption of tobacco in these towns,' continues Mr.
Pickwick, 'must be very great, and the smell which pervades the
streets must be exceedingly delicious to those who are extremely
fond of smoking. A superficial traveller might object to the dirt,
which is their leading characteristic; but to those who view it as
an indication of traffic and commercial prosperity, it is
Punctual to five o'clock came the stranger, and shortly afterwards
the dinner. He had divested himself of his brown paper
parcel, but had made no alteration in his attire, and was, if
possible, more loquacious than ever.
'What's that?' he inquired, as the waiter removed one of the covers.
'Soles--ah!--capital fish--all come from London-stage-
coach proprietors get up political dinners--carriage of soles--
dozens of baskets--cunning fellows. Glass of wine, Sir.'
'With pleasure,' said Mr. Pickwick; and the stranger took
wine, first with him, and then with Mr. Snodgrass, and then with
Mr. Tupman, and then with Mr. Winkle, and then with the
whole party together, almost as rapidly as he talked.
'Devil of a mess on the staircase, waiter,' said the stranger.
'Forms going up--carpenters coming down--lamps, glasses,
harps. What's going forward?'
'Ball, Sir,' said the waiter.
'No, Sir, not assembly, Sir. Ball for the benefit of a charity, Sir.'
'Many fine women in this town, do you know, Sir?' inquired
Mr. Tupman, with great interest.
'Splendid--capital. Kent, sir--everybody knows Kent--
apples, cherries, hops, and women. Glass of wine, Sir!'
'With great pleasure,' replied Mr. Tupman. The stranger filled,
'I should very much like to go,' said Mr. Tupman, resuming
the subject of the ball, 'very much.'
'Tickets at the bar, Sir,' interposed the waiter; 'half-a-guinea
Mr. Tupman again expressed an earnest wish to be present at
the festivity; but meeting with no response in the darkened eye of
Mr. Snodgrass, or the abstracted gaze of Mr. Pickwick, he
applied himself with great interest to the port wine and dessert,
which had just been placed on the table. The waiter withdrew,
and the party were left to enjoy the cosy couple of hours
'Beg your pardon, sir,' said the stranger, 'bottle stands--pass
it round--way of the sun--through the button-hole--no heeltaps,'
and he emptied his glass, which he had filled about two
minutes before, and poured out another, with the air of a man
who was used to it.
The wine was passed, and a fresh supply ordered. The visitor
talked, the Pickwickians listened. Mr. Tupman felt every moment
more disposed for the ball. Mr. Pickwick's countenance glowed
with an expression of universal philanthropy, and Mr. Winkle
and Mr. Snodgrass fell fast asleep.
'They're beginning upstairs,' said the stranger--'hear the
company--fiddles tuning--now the harp--there they go.' The
various sounds which found their way downstairs announced the
commencement of the first quadrille.
'How I should like to go,' said Mr. Tupman again.
'So should I,' said the stranger--'confounded luggage,--heavy
smacks--nothing to go in--odd, ain't it?'
Now general benevolence was one of the leading features of the
Pickwickian theory, and no one was more remarkable for the
zealous manner in which he observed so noble a principle than
Mr. Tracy Tupman. The number of instances recorded on the
Transactions of the Society, in which that excellent man referred
objects of charity to the houses of other members for left-off
garments or pecuniary relief is almost incredible.
'I should be very happy to lend you a change of apparel for the
purpose,' said Mr. Tracy Tupman, 'but you are rather slim, and
'Rather fat--grown-up Bacchus--cut the leaves--dismounted
from the tub, and adopted kersey, eh?--not double distilled, but
double milled--ha! ha! pass the wine.'
Whether Mr. Tupman was somewhat indignant at the peremptory
tone in which he was desired to pass the wine which the
stranger passed so quickly away, or whether he felt very properly
scandalised at an influential member of the Pickwick Club being
ignominiously compared to a dismounted Bacchus, is a fact not
yet completely ascertained. He passed the wine, coughed twice,
and looked at the stranger for several seconds with a stern intensity;
as that individual, however, appeared perfectly collected,
and quite calm under his searching glance, he gradually relaxed,
and reverted to the subject of the ball.
'I was about to observe, Sir,' he said, 'that though my apparel
would be too large, a suit of my friend Mr. Winkle's would,
perhaps, fit you better.'
The stranger took Mr. Winkle's measure with his eye, and that
feature glistened with satisfaction as he said, 'Just the thing.'
Mr. Tupman looked round him. The wine, which had exerted
its somniferous influence over Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle,
had stolen upon the senses of Mr. Pickwick. That gentleman had
gradually passed through the various stages which precede the
lethargy produced by dinner, and its consequences. He had
undergone the ordinary transitions from the height of conviviality
to the depth of misery, and from the depth of misery to the height
of conviviality. Like a gas-lamp in the street, with the wind in the
pipe, he had exhibited for a moment an unnatural brilliancy, then
sank so low as to be scarcely discernible; after a short interval, he
had burst out again, to enlighten for a moment; then flickered
with an uncertain, staggering sort of light, and then gone out
altogether. His head was sunk upon his bosom, and perpetual
snoring, with a partial choke occasionally, were the only audible
indications of the great man's presence.
The temptation to be present at the ball, and to form his first
impressions of the beauty of the Kentish ladies, was strong upon
Mr. Tupman. The temptation to take the stranger with him was
equally great. He was wholly unacquainted with the place and its
inhabitants, and the stranger seemed to possess as great a
knowledge of both as if he had lived there from his infancy.
Mr. Winkle was asleep, and Mr. Tupman had had sufficient
experience in such matters to know that the moment he awoke he
would, in the ordinary course of nature, roll heavily to bed. He
was undecided. 'Fill your glass, and pass the wine,' said the
Mr. Tupman did as he was requested; and the additional
stimulus of the last glass settled his determination.
'Winkle's bedroom is inside mine,' said Mr. Tupman; 'I
couldn't make him understand what I wanted, if I woke him now,
but I know he has a dress-suit in a carpet bag; and supposing you
wore it to the ball, and took it off when we returned, I could
replace it without troubling him at all about the matter.'
'Capital,' said the stranger, 'famous plan--damned odd
situation--fourteen coats in the packing-cases, and obliged to
wear another man's--very good notion, that--very.'
'We must purchase our tickets,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Not worth while splitting a guinea,' said the stranger, 'toss
who shall pay for both--I call; you spin--first time--woman--
woman--bewitching woman,' and down came the sovereign with
the dragon (called by courtesy a woman) uppermost.
Mr. Tupman rang the bell, purchased the tickets, and ordered
chamber candlesticks. In another quarter of an hour the stranger
was completely arrayed in a full suit of Mr. Nathaniel Winkle's.
'It's a new coat,' said Mr. Tupman, as the stranger surveyed
himself with great complacency in a cheval glass; 'the first that's
been made with our club button,' and he called his companions'
attention to the large gilt button which displayed a bust of Mr.
Pickwick in the centre, and the letters 'P. C.' on either side.
'"P. C."' said the stranger--'queer set out--old fellow's
likeness, and "P. C."--What does "P. C." stand for--Peculiar
Mr. Tupman, with rising indignation and great importance,
explained the mystic device.
'Rather short in the waist, ain't it?' said the stranger, screwing
himself round to catch a glimpse in the glass of the waist buttons,
which were half-way up his back. 'Like a general postman's coat
--queer coats those--made by contract--no measuring--
mysterious dispensations of Providence--all the short men get
long coats--all the long men short ones.' Running on in this way,
Mr. Tupman's new companion adjusted his dress, or rather the
dress of Mr. Winkle; and, accompanied by Mr. Tupman,
ascended the staircase leading to the ballroom.
'What names, sir?' said the man at the door. Mr. Tracy
Tupman was stepping forward to announce his own titles, when
the stranger prevented him.
'No names at all;' and then he whispered Mr. Tupman,
'names won't do--not known--very good names in their way,
but not great ones--capital names for a small party, but won't
make an impression in public assemblies--incog. the thing--
gentlemen from London--distinguished foreigners--anything.'
The door was thrown open, and Mr. Tracy Tupman and the
stranger entered the ballroom.
It was a long room, with crimson-covered benches, and wax
candles in glass chandeliers. The musicians were securely confined
in an elevated den, and quadrilles were being systematically
got through by two or three sets of dancers. Two card-tables were
made up in the adjoining card-room, and two pair of old ladies,
and a corresponding number of stout gentlemen, were executing
The finale concluded, the dancers promenaded the room, and
Mr. Tupman and his companion stationed themselves in a corner
to observe the company.
'Charming women,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Wait a minute,' said the stranger, 'fun presently--nobs not
come yet--queer place--dockyard people of upper rank don't
know dockyard people of lower rank--dockyard people of lower
rank don't know small gentry--small gentry don't know
tradespeople--commissioner don't know anybody.'
'Who's that little boy with the light hair and pink eyes, in a
fancy dress?'inquired Mr. Tupman.
'Hush, pray--pink eyes--fancy dress--little boy--nonsense--
ensign 97th--Honourable Wilmot Snipe--great family--Snipes--very.'
'Sir Thomas Clubber, Lady Clubber, and the Misses Clubber!'
shouted the man at the door in a stentorian voice. A great
sensation was created throughout the room by the entrance of a
tall gentleman in a blue coat and bright buttons, a large lady in
blue satin, and two young ladies, on a similar scale, in fashionably-
made dresses of the same hue.
'Commissioner--head of the yard--great man--remarkably
great man,' whispered the stranger in Mr. Tupman's ear, as the
charitable committee ushered Sir Thomas Clubber and family to
the top of the room. The Honourable Wilmot Snipe, and other
distinguished gentlemen crowded to render homage to the Misses
Clubber; and Sir Thomas Clubber stood bolt upright, and looked
majestically over his black kerchief at the assembled company.
'Mr. Smithie, Mrs. Smithie, and the Misses Smithie,' was the
'What's Mr. Smithie?' inquired Mr. Tracy Tupman.
'Something in the yard,' replied the stranger. Mr. Smithie
bowed deferentially to Sir Thomas Clubber; and Sir Thomas
Clubber acknowledged the salute with conscious condescension.
Lady Clubber took a telescopic view of Mrs. Smithie and family
through her eye-glass and Mrs. Smithie stared in her turn at
Mrs. Somebody-else, whose husband was not in the dockyard
'Colonel Bulder, Mrs. Colonel Bulder, and Miss Bulder,' were
the next arrivals.
'Head of the garrison,' said the stranger, in reply to Mr. Tupman's
Miss Bulder was warmly welcomed by the Misses Clubber; the
greeting between Mrs. Colonel Bulder and Lady Clubber was of
the most affectionate description; Colonel Bulder and Sir Thomas
Clubber exchanged snuff-boxes, and looked very much like a pair
of Alexander Selkirks--'Monarchs of all they surveyed.'
While the aristocracy of the place--the Bulders, and Clubbers,
and Snipes--were thus preserving their dignity at the upper end
of the room, the other classes of society were imitating their
example in other parts of it. The less aristocratic officers of the
97th devoted themselves to the families of the less important
functionaries from the dockyard. The solicitors' wives, and the
wine-merchant's wife, headed another grade (the brewer's wife
visited the Bulders); and Mrs. Tomlinson, the post-office keeper,
seemed by mutual consent to have been chosen the leader of the
One of the most popular personages, in his own circle, present,
was a little fat man, with a ring of upright black hair round his
head, and an extensive bald plain on the top of it--Doctor
Slammer, surgeon to the 97th. The doctor took snuff with
everybody, chatted with everybody, laughed, danced, made jokes,
played whist, did everything, and was everywhere. To these
pursuits, multifarious as they were, the little doctor added a
more important one than any--he was indefatigable in paying
the most unremitting and devoted attention to a little old widow,
whose rich dress and profusion of ornament bespoke her a most
desirable addition to a limited income.
Upon the doctor, and the widow, the eyes of both Mr. Tupman
and his companion had been fixed for some time, when the
stranger broke silence.
'Lots of money--old girl--pompous doctor--not a bad idea--
good fun,' were the intelligible sentences which issued from his
lips. Mr. Tupman looked inquisitively in his face.
'I'll dance with the widow,' said the stranger.
'Who is she?' inquired Mr. Tupman.
'Don't know--never saw her in all my life--cut out the doctor
--here goes.' And the stranger forthwith crossed the room; and,
leaning against a mantel-piece, commenced gazing with an air of
respectful and melancholy admiration on the fat countenance of
the little old lady. Mr. Tupman looked on, in mute astonishment.
The stranger progressed rapidly; the little doctor danced with
another lady; the widow dropped her fan; the stranger picked it
up, and presented it--a smile--a bow--a curtsey--a few words
of conversation. The stranger walked boldly up to, and returned
with, the master of the ceremonies; a little introductory pantomime;
and the stranger and Mrs. Budger took their places in a quadrille.
The surprise of Mr. Tupman at this summary proceeding, great
as it was, was immeasurably exceeded by the astonishment of the
doctor. The stranger was young, and the widow was flattered.
The doctor's attentions were unheeded by the widow; and the
doctor's indignation was wholly lost on his imperturbable rival.
Doctor Slammer was paralysed. He, Doctor Slammer, of the
97th, to be extinguished in a moment, by a man whom nobody
had ever seen before, and whom nobody knew even now! Doctor
Slammer--Doctor Slammer of the 97th rejected! Impossible! It
could not be! Yes, it was; there they were. What! introducing his
friend! Could he believe his eyes! He looked again, and was
under the painful necessity of admitting the veracity of his optics;
Mrs. Budger was dancing with Mr. Tracy Tupman; there was no
mistaking the fact. There was the widow before him, bouncing
bodily here and there, with unwonted vigour; and Mr. Tracy
Tupman hopping about, with a face expressive of the most
intense solemnity, dancing (as a good many people do) as if a
quadrille were not a thing to be laughed at, but a severe trial to
the feelings, which it requires inflexible resolution to encounter.
Silently and patiently did the doctor bear all this, and all the
handings of negus, and watching for glasses, and darting for
biscuits, and coquetting, that ensued; but, a few seconds after the
stranger had disappeared to lead Mrs. Budger to her carriage, he
darted swiftly from the room with every particle of his hitherto-
bottled-up indignation effervescing, from all parts of his countenance,
in a perspiration of passion.
The stranger was returning, and Mr. Tupman was beside him.
He spoke in a low tone, and laughed. The little doctor thirsted
for his life. He was exulting. He had triumphed.
'Sir!' said the doctor, in an awful voice, producing a card, and
retiring into an angle of the passage, 'my name is Slammer,
Doctor Slammer, sir--97th Regiment--Chatham Barracks--my
card, Sir, my card.' He would have added more, but his indignation
'Ah!' replied the stranger coolly, 'Slammer--much obliged--
polite attention--not ill now, Slammer--but when I am--knock
'You--you're a shuffler, sir,' gasped the furious doctor, 'a
poltroon--a coward--a liar--a--a--will nothing induce you to
give me your card, sir!'
'Oh! I see,' said the stranger, half aside, 'negus too strong here
--liberal landlord--very foolish--very--lemonade much better
--hot rooms--elderly gentlemen--suffer for it in the morning--
cruel--cruel;' and he moved on a step or two.
'You are stopping in this house, Sir,' said the indignant little
man; 'you are intoxicated now, Sir; you shall hear from me in the
morning, sir. I shall find you out, sir; I shall find you out.'
'Rather you found me out than found me at home,' replied the
Doctor Slammer looked unutterable ferocity, as he fixed his
hat on his head with an indignant knock; and the stranger and
Mr. Tupman ascended to the bedroom of the latter to restore the
borrowed plumage to the unconscious Winkle.
That gentleman was fast asleep; the restoration was soon made.
The stranger was extremely jocose; and Mr. Tracy Tupman,
being quite bewildered with wine, negus, lights, and ladies,
thought the whole affair was an exquisite joke. His new friend
departed; and, after experiencing some slight difficulty in finding
the orifice in his nightcap, originally intended for the reception of
his head, and finally overturning his candlestick in his struggles to
put it on, Mr. Tracy Tupman managed to get into bed by a series
of complicated evolutions, and shortly afterwards sank into repose.
Seven o'clock had hardly ceased striking on the following
morning, when Mr. Pickwick's comprehensive mind was aroused
from the state of unconsciousness, in which slumber had plunged
it, by a loud knocking at his chamber door.
'Who's there?' said Mr. Pickwick, starting up in bed.
'What do you want?'
'Please, sir, can you tell me which gentleman of your party
wears a bright blue dress-coat, with a gilt button with "P. C."
'It's been given out to brush,' thought Mr. Pickwick, 'and the
man has forgotten whom it belongs to.' 'Mr. Winkle,'he called
out, 'next room but two, on the right hand.'
'Thank'ee, sir,' said the Boots, and away he went.
'What's the matter?' cried Mr. Tupman, as a loud knocking at
his door roused hint from his oblivious repose.
'Can I speak to Mr. Winkle, sir?' replied Boots from the outside.
'Winkle--Winkle!' shouted Mr. Tupman, calling into the
'Hollo!' replied a faint voice from within the bed-clothes.
'You're wanted--some one at the door;' and, having exerted
himself to articulate thus much, Mr. Tracy Tupman turned
round and fell fast asleep again.
'Wanted!' said Mr. Winkle, hastily jumping out of bed, and
putting on a few articles of clothing; 'wanted! at this distance
from town--who on earth can want me?'
'Gentleman in the coffee-room, sir,' replied the Boots, as
Mr. Winkle opened the door and confronted him; 'gentleman
says he'll not detain you a moment, Sir, but he can take no denial.'
'Very odd!' said Mr. Winkle; 'I'll be down directly.'
He hurriedly wrapped himself in a travelling-shawl and
dressing-gown, and proceeded downstairs. An old woman and a
couple of waiters were cleaning the coffee-room, and an officer in
undress uniform was looking out of the window. He turned
round as Mr. Winkle entered, and made a stiff inclination of the
head. Having ordered the attendants to retire, and closed the
door very carefully, he said, 'Mr. Winkle, I presume?'
'My name is Winkle, sir.'
'You will not be surprised, sir, when I inform you that I have
called here this morning on behalf of my friend, Doctor Slammer,
of the 97th.'
'Doctor Slammer!' said Mr. Winkle.
'Doctor Slammer. He begged me to express his opinion that
your conduct of last evening was of a description which no
gentleman could endure; and' (he added) 'which no one gentleman
would pursue towards another.'
Mr. Winkle's astonishment was too real, and too evident, to
escape the observation of Doctor Slammer's friend; he therefore
proceeded--'My friend, Doctor Slammer, requested me to add,
that he was firmly persuaded you were intoxicated during a
portion of the evening, and possibly unconscious of the extent of
the insult you were guilty of. He commissioned me to say, that
should this be pleaded as an excuse for your behaviour, he will
consent to accept a written apology, to be penned by you, from
'A written apology!' repeated Mr. Winkle, in the most
emphatic tone of amazement possible.
'Of course you know the alternative,' replied the visitor coolly.
'Were you intrusted with this message to me by name?'
inquired Mr. Winkle, whose intellects were hopelessly confused
by this extraordinary conversation.
'I was not present myself,' replied the visitor, 'and in consequence
of your firm refusal to give your card to Doctor Slammer,
I was desired by that gentleman to identify the wearer of a very
uncommon coat--a bright blue dress-coat, with a gilt button
displaying a bust, and the letters "P. C."'
Mr. Winkle actually staggered with astonishment as he heard
his own costume thus minutely described. Doctor Slammer's
friend proceeded:--'From the inquiries I made at the bar, just
now, I was convinced that the owner of the coat in question
arrived here, with three gentlemen, yesterday afternoon. I
immediately sent up to the gentleman who was described as
appearing the head of the party, and he at once referred me to you.'
If the principal tower of Rochester Castle had suddenly walked
from its foundation, and stationed itself opposite the coffee-room
window, Mr. Winkle's surprise would have been as nothing
compared with the profound astonishment with which he had
heard this address. His first impression was that his coat had been
stolen. 'Will you allow me to detain you one moment?' said he.
'Certainly,' replied the unwelcome visitor.
Mr. Winkle ran hastily upstairs, and with a trembling hand
opened the bag. There was the coat in its usual place, but
exhibiting, on a close inspection, evident tokens of having been
worn on the preceding night.
'It must be so,' said Mr. Winkle, letting the coat fall from his
hands. 'I took too much wine after dinner, and have a very vague
recollection of walking about the streets, and smoking a cigar
afterwards. The fact is, I was very drunk;--I must have changed
my coat--gone somewhere--and insulted somebody--I have no
doubt of it; and this message is the terrible consequence.' Saying
which, Mr. Winkle retraced his steps in the direction of the
coffee-room, with the gloomy and dreadful resolve of accepting
the challenge of the warlike Doctor Slammer, and abiding by the
worst consequences that might ensue.
To this determination Mr. Winkle was urged by a variety of
considerations, the first of which was his reputation with the
club. He had always been looked up to as a high authority on all
matters of amusement and dexterity, whether offensive, defensive,
or inoffensive; and if, on this very first occasion of being put
to the test, he shrunk back from the trial, beneath his leader's eye,
his name and standing were lost for ever. Besides, he remembered
to have heard it frequently surmised by the uninitiated in such
matters that by an understood arrangement between the seconds,
the pistols were seldom loaded with ball; and, furthermore, he
reflected that if he applied to Mr. Snodgrass to act as his second,
and depicted the danger in glowing terms, that gentleman might
possibly communicate the intelligence to Mr. Pickwick, who
would certainly lose no time in transmitting it to the local
authorities, and thus prevent the killing or maiming of his follower.
Such were his thoughts when he returned to the coffee-room,
and intimated his intention of accepting the doctor's challenge.
'Will you refer me to a friend, to arrange the time and place of
meeting?' said the officer.
'Quite unnecessary,' replied Mr. Winkle; 'name them to me,
and I can procure the attendance of a friend afterwards.'
'Shall we say--sunset this evening?' inquired the officer, in a
'Very good,' replied Mr. Winkle, thinking in his heart it was
'You know Fort Pitt?'
'Yes; I saw it yesterday.'
'If you will take the trouble to turn into the field which borders
the trench, take the foot-path to the left when you arrive at an
angle of the fortification, and keep straight on, till you see me, I
will precede you to a secluded place, where the affair can be
conducted without fear of interruption.'
'Fear of interruption!' thought Mr. Winkle.
'Nothing more to arrange, I think,' said the officer.
'I am not aware of anything more,' replied Mr. Winkle.
'Good-morning;' and the officer whistled a lively air as he
That morning's breakfast passed heavily off. Mr. Tupman was
not in a condition to rise, after the unwonted dissipation of the
previous night; Mr. Snodgrass appeared to labour under a
poetical depression of spirits; and even Mr. Pickwick evinced an
unusual attachment to silence and soda-water. Mr. Winkle
eagerly watched his opportunity: it was not long wanting. Mr.
Snodgrass proposed a visit to the castle, and as Mr. Winkle was
the only other member of the party disposed to walk, they went
'Snodgrass,' said Mr. Winkle, when they had turned out of the
public street. 'Snodgrass, my dear fellow, can I rely upon your
secrecy?' As he said this, he most devoutly and earnestly hoped
he could not.
'You can,' replied Mr. Snodgrass. 'Hear me swear--'
'No, no,' interrupted Winkle, terrified at the idea of his
companion's unconsciously pledging himself not to give information;
'don't swear, don't swear; it's quite unnecessary.'
Mr. Snodgrass dropped the hand which he had, in the spirit of
poesy, raised towards the clouds as he made the above appeal,
and assumed an attitude of attention.
'I want your assistance, my dear fellow, in an affair of
honour,' said Mr. Winkle.
'You shall have it,' replied Mr. Snodgrass, clasping his friend's hand.
'With a doctor--Doctor Slammer, of the 97th,' said Mr.
Winkle, wishing to make the matter appear as solemn as possible;
'an affair with an officer, seconded by another officer, at sunset
this evening, in a lonely field beyond Fort Pitt.'
'I will attend you,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
He was astonished, but by no means dismayed. It is extraordinary
how cool any party but the principal can be in such cases. Mr. Winkle
had forgotten this. He had judged of his friend's feelings by his own.
'The consequences may be dreadful,' said Mr. Winkle.
'I hope not,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'The doctor, I believe, is a very good shot,' said Mr. Winkle.
'Most of these military men are,' observed Mr. Snodgrass
calmly; 'but so are you, ain't you?'
Mr. Winkle replied in the affirmative; and perceiving that he
had not alarmed his companion sufficiently, changed his ground.
'Snodgrass,' he said, in a voice tremulous with emotion, 'if I
fall, you will find in a packet which I shall place in your hands a
note for my-- for my father.'
This attack was a failure also. Mr. Snodgrass was affected, but
he undertook the delivery of the note as readily as if he had been
a twopenny postman.
'If I fall,' said Mr. Winkle, 'or if the doctor falls, you, my dear
friend, will be tried as an accessory before the fact. Shall I
involve my friend in transportation--possibly for life!'
Mr. Snodgrass winced a little at this, but his heroism was
invincible. 'In the cause of friendship,' he fervently exclaimed, 'I
would brave all dangers.'
How Mr. Winkle cursed his companion's devoted friendship
internally, as they walked silently along, side by side, for some
minutes, each immersed in his own meditations! The morning
was wearing away; he grew desperate.
'Snodgrass,' he said, stopping suddenly, 'do not let me be
balked in this matter--do not give information to the local
authorities--do not obtain the assistance of several peace
officers, to take either me or Doctor Slammer, of the 97th
Regiment, at present quartered in Chatham Barracks, into
custody, and thus prevent this duel!--I say, do not.'
Mr. Snodgrass seized his friend's hand warmly, as he
enthusiastically replied, 'Not for worlds!'
A thrill passed over Mr. Winkle's frame as the conviction that
he had nothing to hope from his friend's fears, and that he was
destined to become an animated target, rushed forcibly upon him.
The state of the case having been formally explained to Mr.
Snodgrass, and a case of satisfactory pistols, with the satisfactory
accompaniments of powder, ball, and caps, having been hired
from a manufacturer in Rochester, the two friends returned to
their inn; Mr. Winkle to ruminate on the approaching struggle,
and Mr. Snodgrass to arrange the weapons of war, and put them
into proper order for immediate use.
it was a dull and heavy evening when they again sallied forth
on their awkward errand. Mr. Winkle was muffled up in a huge
cloak to escape observation, and Mr. Snodgrass bore under his
the instruments of destruction.
'Have you got everything?' said Mr. Winkle, in an agitated tone.
'Everything,' replied Mr. Snodgrass; 'plenty of ammunition, in
case the shots don't take effect. There's a quarter of a pound of
powder in the case, and I have got two newspapers in my pocket
for the loadings.'
These were instances of friendship for which any man might
reasonably feel most grateful. The presumption is, that the
gratitude of Mr. Winkle was too powerful for utterance, as he
said nothing, but continued to walk on--rather slowly.
'We are in excellent time,' said Mr. Snodgrass, as they climbed
the fence of the first field;'the sun is just going down.' Mr. Winkle
looked up at the declining orb and painfully thought of the
probability of his 'going down' himself, before long.
'There's the officer,' exclaimed Mr. Winkle, after a few minutes walking.
'Where?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'There--the gentleman in the blue cloak.' Mr. Snodgrass
looked in the direction indicated by the forefinger of his friend,
and observed a figure, muffled up, as he had described. The
officer evinced his consciousness of their presence by slightly
beckoning with his hand; and the two friends followed him at a
little distance, as he walked away.
The evening grew more dull every moment, and a melancholy
wind sounded through the deserted fields, like a distant giant
whistling for his house-dog. The sadness of the scene imparted a
sombre tinge to the feelings of Mr. Winkle. He started as they
passed the angle of the trench--it looked like a colossal grave.
The officer turned suddenly from the path, and after climbing a
paling, and scaling a hedge, entered a secluded field. Two gentlemen
were waiting in it; one was a little, fat man, with black hair;
and the other--a portly personage in a braided surtout--was
sitting with perfect equanimity on a camp-stool.
'The other party, and a surgeon, I suppose,' said Mr. Snodgrass;
'take a drop of brandy.' Mr. Winkle seized the wicker
bottle which his friend proffered, and took a lengthened pull at
the exhilarating liquid.
'My friend, Sir, Mr. Snodgrass,' said Mr. Winkle, as the officer
approached. Doctor Slammer's friend bowed, and produced a
case similar to that which Mr. Snodgrass carried.
'We have nothing further to say, Sir, I think,' he coldly remarked,
as he opened the case; 'an apology has been resolutely declined.'
'Nothing, Sir,' said Mr. Snodgrass, who began to feel rather
'Will you step forward?' said the officer.
'Certainly,' replied Mr. Snodgrass. The ground was measured,
and preliminaries arranged.
'You will find these better than your own,' said the opposite
second, producing his pistols. 'You saw me load them. Do you
object to use them?'
'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Snodgrass. The offer relieved him
from considerable embarrassment, for his previous notions of
loading a pistol were rather vague and undefined.
'We may place our men, then, I think,' observed the officer,
with as much indifference as if the principals were chess-men, and
the seconds players.
'I think we may,' replied Mr. Snodgrass; who would have
assented to any proposition, because he knew nothing about the
matter. The officer crossed to Doctor Slammer, and Mr. Snodgrass
went up to Mr. Winkle.
'It's all ready,' said he, offering the pistol. 'Give me your cloak.'
'You have got the packet, my dear fellow,' said poor Winkle.
'All right,' said Mr. Snodgrass. 'Be steady, and wing him.'
It occurred to Mr. Winkle that this advice was very like that
which bystanders invariably give to the smallest boy in a street
fight, namely, 'Go in, and win'--an admirable thing to recommend,
if you only know how to do it. He took off his cloak,
however, in silence--it always took a long time to undo that cloak
--and accepted the pistol. The seconds retired, the gentleman on
the camp-stool did the same, and the belligerents approached
Mr. Winkle was always remarkable for extreme humanity. It is
conjectured that his unwillingness to hurt a fellow-creature
intentionally was the cause of his shutting his eyes when he
arrived at the fatal spot; and that the circumstance of his eyes
being closed, prevented his observing the very extraordinary and
unaccountable demeanour of Doctor Slammer. That gentleman
started, stared, retreated, rubbed his eyes, stared again, and,
finally, shouted, 'Stop, stop!'
'What's all this?' said Doctor Slammer, as his friend and Mr.
Snodgrass came running up; 'that's not the man.'
'Not the man!' said Doctor Slammer's second.
'Not the man!' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Not the man!' said the gentleman with the camp-stool in his hand.
'Certainly not,' replied the little doctor. 'That's not the person
who insulted me last night.'
'Very extraordinary!' exclaimed the officer.
'Very,' said the gentleman with the camp-stool. 'The only
question is, whether the gentleman, being on the ground, must
not be considered, as a matter of form, to be the individual who
insulted our friend, Doctor Slammer, yesterday evening, whether
he is really that individual or not;' and having delivered this
suggestion, with a very sage and mysterious air, the man with the
camp-stool took a large pinch of snuff, and looked profoundly
round, with the air of an authority in such matters.
Now Mr. Winkle had opened his eyes, and his ears too, when
he heard his adversary call out for a cessation of hostilities; and
perceiving by what he had afterwards said that there was, beyond
all question, some mistake in the matter, he at once foresaw the
increase of reputation he should inevitably acquire by concealing
the real motive of his coming out; he therefore stepped boldly
forward, and said--
'I am not the person. I know it.'
'Then, that,' said the man with the camp-stool, 'is an affront
to Doctor Slammer, and a sufficient reason for proceeding immediately.'
'Pray be quiet, Payne,' said the doctor's second. 'Why did you
not communicate this fact to me this morning, Sir?'
'To be sure--to be sure,' said the man with the camp-stool
'I entreat you to be quiet, Payne,' said the other. 'May I repeat
my question, Sir?'
'Because, Sir,' replied Mr. Winkle, who had had time to
deliberate upon his answer, 'because, Sir, you described an
intoxicated and ungentlemanly person as wearing a coat which I
have the honour, not only to wear but to have invented--the
proposed uniform, Sir, of the Pickwick Club in London. The
honour of that uniform I feel bound to maintain, and I therefore,
without inquiry, accepted the challenge which you offered me.'
'My dear Sir,' said the good-humoured little doctor advancing
with extended hand, 'I honour your gallantry. Permit me to say,
Sir, that I highly admire your conduct, and extremely regret
having caused you the inconvenience of this meeting, to no purpose.'
'I beg you won't mention it, Sir,' said Mr. Winkle.
'I shall feel proud of your acquaintance, Sir,' said the little doctor.
'It will afford me the greatest pleasure to know you, sir,' replied
Mr. Winkle. Thereupon the doctor and Mr. Winkle shook
hands, and then Mr. Winkle and Lieutenant Tappleton (the
doctor's second), and then Mr. Winkle and the man with the
camp-stool, and, finally, Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass--the
last-named gentleman in an excess of admiration at the noble
conduct of his heroic friend.
'I think we may adjourn,' said Lieutenant Tappleton.
'Certainly,' added the doctor.
'Unless,' interposed the man with the camp-stool, 'unless Mr.
Winkle feels himself aggrieved by the challenge; in which case, I
submit, he has a right to satisfaction.'
Mr. Winkle, with great self-denial, expressed himself quite
'Or possibly,' said the man with the camp-stool, 'the gentleman's
second may feel himself affronted with some observations
which fell from me at an early period of this meeting; if so, I shall
be happy to give him satisfaction immediately.'
Mr. Snodgrass hastily professed himself very much obliged
with the handsome offer of the gentleman who had spoken last,
which he was only induced to decline by his entire contentment
with the whole proceedings. The two seconds adjusted the cases,
and the whole party left the ground in a much more lively
manner than they had proceeded to it.
'Do you remain long here?' inquired Doctor Slammer of
Mr. Winkle, as they walked on most amicably together.
'I think we shall leave here the day after to-morrow,' was the reply.
'I trust I shall have the pleasure of seeing you and your friend
at my rooms, and of spending a pleasant evening with you, after
this awkward mistake,' said the little doctor; 'are you
disengaged this evening?'
'We have some friends here,' replied Mr. Winkle, 'and I should
not like to leave them to-night. Perhaps you and your friend will
join us at the Bull.'
'With great pleasure,' said the little doctor; 'will ten o'clock be
too late to look in for half an hour?'
'Oh dear, no,' said Mr. Winkle. 'I shall be most happy to
introduce you to my friends, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman.'
'It will give me great pleasure, I am sure,' replied Doctor
Slammer, little suspecting who Mr. Tupman was.
'You will be sure to come?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
By this time they had reached the road. Cordial farewells were
exchanged, and the party separated. Doctor Slammer and his
friends repaired to the barracks, and Mr. Winkle, accompanied by
Mr. Snodgrass, returned to their inn.
A NEW ACQUAINTANCE--THE STROLLER'S TALE--A
DISAGREEABLE INTERRUPTION, AND AN UNPLEASANT
Mr. Pickwick had felt some apprehensions in consequence of the
unusual absence of his two friends, which their mysterious
behaviour during the whole morning had by no means tended to
diminish. It was, therefore, with more than ordinary pleasure
that he rose to greet them when they again entered; and with more
than ordinary interest that he inquired what had occurred to
detain them from his society. In reply to his questions on this
point, Mr. Snodgrass was about to offer an historical account of
the circumstances just now detailed, when he was suddenly checked
by observing that there were present, not only Mr. Tupman and
their stage-coach companion of the preceding day, but another
stranger of equally singular appearance. It was a careworn-looking
man, whose sallow face, and deeply-sunken eyes, were rendered
still more striking than Nature had made them, by the straight
black hair which hung in matted disorder half-way down his face.
His eyes were almost unnaturally bright and piercing; his
cheek-bones were high and prominent; and his jaws were so long and
lank, that an observer would have supposed that he was drawing the
flesh of his face in, for a moment, by some contraction of the
muscles, if his half-opened mouth and immovable expression had not
announced that it was his ordinary appearance. Round his neck he
wore a green shawl, with the large ends straggling over his chest,
and making their appearance occasionally beneath the worn
button-holes of his old waistcoat. His upper garment was a long
black surtout; and below it he wore wide drab trousers, and large
boots, running rapidly to seed.
It was on this uncouth-looking person that Mr. Winkle's eye
rested, and it was towards him that Mr. Pickwick extended his
hand when he said, 'A friend of our friend's here. We discovered
this morning that our friend was connected with the theatre in
this place, though he is not desirous to have it generally known,
and this gentleman is a member of the same profession. He was
about to favour us with a little anecdote connected with it, when
'Lots of anecdote,' said the green-coated stranger of the day
before, advancing to Mr. Winkle and speaking in a low and
confidential tone. 'Rum fellow--does the heavy business--no
actor--strange man--all sorts of miseries--Dismal Jemmy, we
call him on the circuit.' Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass politely
welcomed the gentleman, elegantly designated as 'Dismal
Jemmy'; and calling for brandy-and-water, in imitation of the
remainder of the company, seated themselves at the table.
'Now sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'will you oblige us by proceeding
with what you were going to relate?'
The dismal individual took a dirty roll of paper from his
pocket, and turning to Mr. Snodgrass, who had just taken out
his note-book, said in a hollow voice, perfectly in keeping with his
outward man--'Are you the poet?'
'I--I do a little in that way,' replied Mr. Snodgrass, rather
taken aback by the abruptness of the question.
'Ah! poetry makes life what light and music do the stage--
strip the one of the false embellishments, and the other of its
illusions, and what is there real in either to live or care for?'
'Very true, Sir,' replied Mr. Snodgrass.
'To be before the footlights,' continued the dismal man, 'is like
sitting at a grand court show, and admiring the silken dresses of
the gaudy throng; to be behind them is to be the people who
make that finery, uncared for and unknown, and left to sink or
swim, to starve or live, as fortune wills it.'
'Certainly,' said Mr. Snodgrass: for the sunken eye of the
dismal man rested on him, and he felt it necessary to say something.
'Go on, Jemmy,' said the Spanish traveller, 'like black-eyed
Susan--all in the Downs--no croaking--speak out--look lively.'
'Will you make another glass before you begin, Sir ?' said Mr. Pickwick.
The dismal man took the hint, and having mixed a glass of
brandy-and-water, and slowly swallowed half of it, opened the
roll of paper and proceeded, partly to read, and partly to relate,
the following incident, which we find recorded on the Transactions
of the Club as 'The Stroller's Tale.'
THE STROLLER'S TALE
'There is nothing of the marvellous in what I am going to relate,'
said the dismal man; 'there is nothing even uncommon in it.
Want and sickness are too common in many stations of life to
deserve more notice than is usually bestowed on the most
ordinary vicissitudes of human nature. I have thrown these few
notes together, because the subject of them was well known to me
for many years. I traced his progress downwards, step by step,
until at last he reached that excess of destitution from which he
never rose again.
'The man of whom I speak was a low pantomime actor; and,
like many people of his class, an habitual drunkard. in his better
days, before he had become enfeebled by dissipation and
emaciated by disease, he had been in the receipt of a good salary,
which, if he had been careful and prudent, he might have continued
to receive for some years--not many; because these men
either die early, or by unnaturally taxing their bodily energies,
lose, prematurely, those physical powers on which alone they can
depend for subsistence. His besetting sin gained so fast upon him,
however, that it was found impossible to employ him in the
situations in which he really was useful to the theatre. The
public-house had a fascination for him which he could not resist.
Neglected disease and hopeless poverty were as certain to be his
portion as death itself, if he persevered in the same course; yet he
did persevere, and the result may be guessed. He could obtain no
engagement, and he wanted bread.
'Everybody who is at all acquainted with theatrical matters
knows what a host of shabby, poverty-stricken men hang about
the stage of a large establishment--not regularly engaged actors,
but ballet people, procession men, tumblers, and so forth, who
are taken on during the run of a pantomime, or an Easter piece,
and are then discharged, until the production of some heavy
spectacle occasions a new demand for their services. To this
mode of life the man was compelled to resort; and taking the
chair every night, at some low theatrical house, at once put him
in possession of a few more shillings weekly, and enabled him to
gratify his old propensity. Even this resource shortly failed him;
his irregularities were too great to admit of his earning the
wretched pittance he might thus have procured, and he was
actually reduced to a state bordering on starvation, only procuring
a trifle occasionally by borrowing it of some old companion,
or by obtaining an appearance at one or other of the commonest
of the minor theatres; and when he did earn anything it was
spent in the old way.
'About this time, and when he had been existing for upwards
of a year no one knew how, I had a short engagement at one of
the theatres on the Surrey side of the water, and here I saw this
man, whom I had lost sight of for some time; for I had been
travelling in the provinces, and he had been skulking in the lanes
and alleys of London. I was dressed to leave the house, and was
crossing the stage on my way out, when he tapped me on the
shoulder. Never shall I forget the repulsive sight that met my eye
when I turned round. He was dressed for the pantomimes in all
the absurdity of a clown's costume. The spectral figures in the
Dance of Death, the most frightful shapes that the ablest painter
ever portrayed on canvas, never presented an appearance half so
ghastly. His bloated body and shrunken legs--their deformity
enhanced a hundredfold by the fantastic dress--the glassy eyes,
contrasting fearfully with the thick white paint with which the
face was besmeared; the grotesquely-ornamented head, trembling
with paralysis, and the long skinny hands, rubbed with white
chalk--all gave him a hideous and unnatural appearance, of
which no description could convey an adequate idea, and which,
to this day, I shudder to think of. His voice was hollow and
tremulous as he took me aside, and in broken words recounted a
long catalogue of sickness and privations, terminating as usual
with an urgent request for the loan of a trifling sum of money. I
put a few shillings in his hand, and as I turned away I heard the
roar of laughter which followed his first tumble on the stage.
'A few nights afterwards, a boy put a dirty scrap of paper in
my hand, on which were scrawled a few words in pencil,
intimating that the man was dangerously ill, and begging me, after
the performance, to see him at his lodgings in some street--I
forget the name of it now--at no great distance from the theatre.
I promised to comply, as soon as I could get away; and after the
curtain fell, sallied forth on my melancholy errand.
'It was late, for I had been playing in the last piece; and, as it
was a benefit night, the performances had been protracted to an
unusual length. It was a dark, cold night, with a chill, damp wind,
which blew the rain heavily against the windows and house-
fronts. Pools of water had collected in the narrow and little-
frequented streets, and as many of the thinly-scattered oil-lamps
had been blown out by the violence of the wind, the walk was not
only a comfortless, but most uncertain one. I had fortunately
taken the right course, however, and succeeded, after a little
difficulty, in finding the house to which I had been directed--a
coal-shed, with one Storey above it, in the back room of which
lay the object of my search.
'A wretched-looking woman, the man's wife, met me on the
stairs, and, telling me that he had just fallen into a kind of doze,
led me softly in, and placed a chair for me at the bedside. The sick
man was lying with his face turned towards the wall; and as he
took no heed of my presence, I had leisure to observe the place in
which I found myself.
'He was lying on an old bedstead, which turned up during the
day. The tattered remains of a checked curtain were drawn round
the bed's head, to exclude the wind, which, however, made its
way into the comfortless room through the numerous chinks in
the door, and blew it to and fro every instant. There was a low
cinder fire in a rusty, unfixed grate; and an old three-cornered
stained table, with some medicine bottles, a broken glass, and a
few other domestic articles, was drawn out before it. A little child
was sleeping on a temporary bed which had been made for it on
the floor, and the woman sat on a chair by its side. There were
a couple of shelves, with a few plates and cups and saucers; and
a pair of stage shoes and a couple of foils hung beneath them.
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