The Pickwick Papers
Part 14 out of 20
in a very creditable and apothecary-like manner. Mr. Sawyer,
being a bachelor, had only one tumbler in the house, which was
assigned to Mr. Winkle as a compliment to the visitor, Mr. Ben
Allen being accommodated with a funnel with a cork in the
narrow end, and Bob Sawyer contented himself with one of those
wide-lipped crystal vessels inscribed with a variety of cabalistic
characters, in which chemists are wont to measure out their
liquid drugs in compounding prescriptions. These preliminaries
adjusted, the punch was tasted, and pronounced excellent; and it
having been arranged that Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen should be
considered at liberty to fill twice to Mr. Winkle's once, they
started fair, with great satisfaction and good-fellowship.
There was no singing, because Mr. Bob Sawyer said it wouldn't
look professional; but to make amends for this deprivation there
was so much talking and laughing that it might have been heard,
and very likely was, at the end of the street. Which conversation
materially lightened the hours and improved the mind of Mr.
Bob Sawyer's boy, who, instead of devoting the evening to his
ordinary occupation of writing his name on the counter, and
rubbing it out again, peeped through the glass door, and thus
listened and looked on at the same time.
The mirth of Mr. Bob Sawyer was rapidly ripening into the
furious, Mr. Ben Allen was fast relapsing into the sentimental,
and the punch had well-nigh disappeared altogether, when the
boy hastily running in, announced that a young woman had just
come over, to say that Sawyer late Nockemorf was wanted
directly, a couple of streets off. This broke up the party. Mr. Bob
Sawyer, understanding the message, after some twenty repetitions,
tied a wet cloth round his head to sober himself, and, having
partially succeeded, put on his green spectacles and issued forth.
Resisting all entreaties to stay till he came back, and finding it
quite impossible to engage Mr. Ben Allen in any intelligible
conversation on the subject nearest his heart, or indeed on
any other, Mr. Winkle took his departure, and returned to the
The anxiety of his mind, and the numerous meditations which
Arabella had awakened, prevented his share of the mortar of
punch producing that effect upon him which it would have had
under other circumstances. So, after taking a glass of soda-water
and brandy at the bar, he turned into the coffee-room, dispirited
rather than elevated by the occurrences of the evening.
Sitting in front of the fire, with his back towards him, was a
tallish gentleman in a greatcoat: the only other occupant of the
room. It was rather a cool evening for the season of the year, and
the gentleman drew his chair aside to afford the new-comer a
sight of the fire. What were Mr. Winkle's feelings when, in doing
so, he disclosed to view the face and figure of the vindictive and
Mr. Winkle's first impulse was to give a violent pull at the
nearest bell-handle, but that unfortunately happened to be
immediately behind Mr. Dowler's head. He had made one step
towards it, before he checked himself. As he did so, Mr. Dowler
very hastily drew back.
'Mr. Winkle, Sir. Be calm. Don't strike me. I won't bear it. A
blow! Never!' said Mr. Dowler, looking meeker than Mr. Winkle
had expected in a gentleman of his ferocity.
'A blow, Sir?' stammered Mr. Winkle.
'A blow, Sir,' replied Dowler. 'Compose your feelings. Sit
down. Hear me.'
'Sir,' said Mr. Winkle, trembling from head to foot, 'before I
consent to sit down beside, or opposite you, without the presence
of a waiter, I must be secured by some further understanding.
You used a threat against me last night, Sir, a dreadful threat,
Sir.' Here Mr. Winkle turned very pale indeed, and stopped short.
'I did,' said Dowler, with a countenance almost as white as
Mr. Winkle's. 'Circumstances were suspicious. They have been
explained. I respect your bravery. Your feeling is upright.
Conscious innocence. There's my hand. Grasp it.'
'Really, Sir,' said Mr. Winkle, hesitating whether to give his
hand or not, and almost fearing that it was demanded in order
that he might be taken at an advantage, 'really, Sir, I--'
'I know what you mean,' interposed Dowler. 'You feel
aggrieved. Very natural. So should I. I was wrong. I beg your
pardon. Be friendly. Forgive me.' With this, Dowler fairly
forced his hand upon Mr. Winkle, and shaking it with the utmost
vehemence, declared he was a fellow of extreme spirit, and he had
a higher opinion of him than ever.
'Now,' said Dowler, 'sit down. Relate it all. How did you find
me? When did you follow? Be frank. Tell me.'
'It's quite accidental,' replied Mr. Winkle, greatly perplexed
by the curious and unexpected nature of the interview. 'Quite.'
'Glad of it,' said Dowler. 'I woke this morning. I had forgotten
my threat. I laughed at the accident. I felt friendly. I said so.'
'To whom?' inquired Mr. Winkle.
'To Mrs. Dowler. "You made a vow," said she. "I did," said I.
"It was a rash one," said she. "It was," said I. "I'll apologise.
Where is he?"'
'Who?' inquired Mr. Winkle.
'You,' replied Dowler. 'I went downstairs. You were not to be
found. Pickwick looked gloomy. Shook his head. Hoped no
violence would be committed. I saw it all. You felt yourself
insulted. You had gone, for a friend perhaps. Possibly for pistols.
"High spirit," said I. "I admire him."'
Mr. Winkle coughed, and beginning to see how the land lay,
assumed a look of importance.
'I left a note for you,' resumed Dowler. 'I said I was sorry. So
I was. Pressing business called me here. You were not satisfied.
You followed. You required a verbal explanation. You were
right. It's all over now. My business is finished. I go back
to-morrow. Join me.'
As Dowler progressed in his explanation, Mr. Winkle's
countenance grew more and more dignified. The mysterious
nature of the commencement of their conversation was
explained; Mr. Dowler had as great an objection to duelling as
himself; in short, this blustering and awful personage was one of
the most egregious cowards in existence, and interpreting Mr.
Winkle's absence through the medium of his own fears, had
taken the same step as himself, and prudently retired until all
excitement of feeling should have subsided.
As the real state of the case dawned upon Mr. Winkle's mind,
he looked very terrible, and said he was perfectly satisfied; but at
the same time, said so with an air that left Mr. Dowler no alternative
but to infer that if he had not been, something most horrible
and destructive must inevitably have occurred. Mr. Dowler
appeared to be impressed with a becoming sense of Mr. Winkle's
magnanimity and condescension; and the two belligerents parted
for the night, with many protestations of eternal friendship.
About half-past twelve o'clock, when Mr. Winkle had been
revelling some twenty minutes in the full luxury of his first sleep,
he was suddenly awakened by a loud knocking at his chamber
door, which, being repeated with increased vehemence, caused
him to start up in bed, and inquire who was there, and what the
'Please, Sir, here's a young man which says he must see you
directly,' responded the voice of the chambermaid.
'A young man!' exclaimed Mr. Winkle.
'No mistake about that 'ere, Sir,' replied another voice through
the keyhole; 'and if that wery same interestin' young creetur ain't
let in vithout delay, it's wery possible as his legs vill enter afore
his countenance.' The young man gave a gentle kick at one of the
lower panels of the door, after he had given utterance to this hint,
as if to add force and point to the remark.
'Is that you, Sam?' inquired Mr. Winkle, springing out of bed.
'Quite unpossible to identify any gen'l'm'n vith any degree o'
mental satisfaction, vithout lookin' at him, Sir,' replied the
Mr. Winkle, not much doubting who the young man was,
unlocked the door; which he had no sooner done than Mr.
Samuel Weller entered with great precipitation, and carefully
relocking it on the inside, deliberately put the key in his waistcoat
pocket; and, after surveying Mr. Winkle from head to foot,
'You're a wery humorous young gen'l'm'n, you air, Sir!'
'What do you mean by this conduct, Sam?' inquired Mr.
Winkle indignantly. 'Get out, sir, this instant. What do you
'What do I mean,' retorted Sam; 'come, Sir, this is rayther too
rich, as the young lady said when she remonstrated with the
pastry-cook, arter he'd sold her a pork pie as had got nothin' but
fat inside. What do I mean! Well, that ain't a bad 'un, that ain't.'
'Unlock that door, and leave this room immediately, Sir,' said
'I shall leave this here room, sir, just precisely at the wery
same moment as you leaves it,' responded Sam, speaking in a
forcible manner, and seating himself with perfect gravity. 'If I
find it necessary to carry you away, pick-a-back, o' course I shall
leave it the least bit o' time possible afore you; but allow me to
express a hope as you won't reduce me to extremities; in saying
wich, I merely quote wot the nobleman said to the fractious
pennywinkle, ven he vouldn't come out of his shell by means of a
pin, and he conseqvently began to be afeered that he should be
obliged to crack him in the parlour door.' At the end of this
address, which was unusually lengthy for him, Mr. Weller
planted his hands on his knees, and looked full in Mr. Winkle's
face, with an expression of countenance which showed that he
had not the remotest intention of being trifled with.
'You're a amiably-disposed young man, Sir, I don't think,'
resumed Mr. Weller, in a tone of moral reproof, 'to go inwolving
our precious governor in all sorts o' fanteegs, wen he's made up
his mind to go through everythink for principle. You're far
worse nor Dodson, Sir; and as for Fogg, I consider him a born
angel to you!' Mr. Weller having accompanied this last sentiment
with an emphatic slap on each knee, folded his arms with a look
of great disgust, and threw himself back in his chair, as if
awaiting the criminal's defence.
'My good fellow,' said Mr. Winkle, extending his hand--his
teeth chattering all the time he spoke, for he had been standing,
during the whole of Mr. Weller's lecture, in his night-gear--'my
good fellow, I respect your attachment to my excellent friend,
and I am very sorry indeed to have added to his causes for
disquiet. There, Sam, there!'
'Well,' said Sam, rather sulkily, but giving the proffered hand
a respectful shake at the same time--'well, so you ought to be,
and I am very glad to find you air; for, if I can help it, I won't
have him put upon by nobody, and that's all about it.'
'Certainly not, Sam,' said Mr. Winkle. 'There! Now go to bed,
Sam, and we'll talk further about this in the morning.'
'I'm wery sorry,' said Sam, 'but I can't go to bed.'
'Not go to bed!' repeated Mr. Winkle.
'No,' said Sam, shaking his head. 'Can't be done.'
'You don't mean to say you're going back to-night, Sam?'
urged Mr. Winkle, greatly surprised.
'Not unless you particklerly wish it,' replied Sam; 'but I
mustn't leave this here room. The governor's orders wos peremptory.'
'Nonsense, Sam,' said Mr. Winkle, 'I must stop here two or
three days; and more than that, Sam, you must stop here too,
to assist me in gaining an interview with a young lady--Miss
Allen, Sam; you remember her--whom I must and will see before
I leave Bristol.'
But in reply to each of these positions, Sam shook his head
with great firmness, and energetically replied, 'It can't be done.'
After a great deal of argument and representation on the part
of Mr. Winkle, however, and a full disclosure of what had passed
in the interview with Dowler, Sam began to waver; and at length
a compromise was effected, of which the following were the main
and principal conditions:--
That Sam should retire, and leave Mr. Winkle in the undisturbed
possession of his apartment, on the condition that he had
permission to lock the door on the outside, and carry off the key;
provided always, that in the event of an alarm of fire, or other
dangerous contingency, the door should be instantly unlocked.
That a letter should be written to Mr. Pickwick early next
morning, and forwarded per Dowler, requesting his consent to
Sam and Mr. Winkle's remaining at Bristol, for the purpose and
with the object already assigned, and begging an answer by the
next coach--, if favourable, the aforesaid parties to remain
accordingly, and if not, to return to Bath immediately on the
receipt thereof. And, lastly, that Mr. Winkle should be understood
as distinctly pledging himself not to resort to the window,
fireplace, or other surreptitious mode of escape in the meanwhile.
These stipulations having been concluded, Sam locked the door
He had nearly got downstairs, when he stopped, and drew the
key from his pocket.
'I quite forgot about the knockin' down,' said Sam, half
turning back. 'The governor distinctly said it was to be done.
Amazin' stupid o' me, that 'ere! Never mind,' said Sam, brightening
up, 'it's easily done to-morrow, anyvays.'
Apparently much consoled by this reflection, Mr. Weller once
more deposited the key in his pocket, and descending the remainder
of the stairs without any fresh visitations of conscience,
was soon, in common with the other inmates of the house, buried
in profound repose.
Mr. SAMUEL WELLER, BEING INTRUSTED WITH A MISSION
OF LOVE, PROCEEDS TO EXECUTE IT; WITH WHAT SUCCESS
WILL HEREINAFTER APPEAR
During the whole of next day, Sam kept Mr. Winkle steadily in
sight, fully determined not to take his eyes off him for one
instant, until he should receive express instructions from the
fountain-head. However disagreeable Sam's very close watch and
great vigilance were to Mr. Winkle, he thought it better to bear
with them, than, by any act of violent opposition, to hazard
being carried away by force, which Mr. Weller more than once
strongly hinted was the line of conduct that a strict sense of duty
prompted him to pursue. There is little reason to doubt that Sam
would very speedily have quieted his scruples, by bearing
Mr. Winkle back to Bath, bound hand and foot, had not Mr.
Pickwick's prompt attention to the note, which Dowler had
undertaken to deliver, forestalled any such proceeding. In
short, at eight o'clock in the evening, Mr. Pickwick himself
walked into the coffee-room of the Bush Tavern, and told Sam
with a smile, to his very great relief, that he had done quite
right, and it was unnecessary for him to mount guard any longer.
'I thought it better to come myself,' said Mr. Pickwick,
addressing Mr. Winkle, as Sam disencumbered him of his great-
coat and travelling-shawl, 'to ascertain, before I gave my consent
to Sam's employment in this matter, that you are quite in earnest
and serious, with respect to this young lady.'
'Serious, from my heart--from my soul!'returned Mr. Winkle,
with great energy.
'Remember,' said Mr. Pickwick, with beaming eyes, 'we met
her at our excellent and hospitable friend's, Winkle. It would be
an ill return to tamper lightly, and without due consideration,
with this young lady's affections. I'll not allow that, sir. I'll not
'I have no such intention, indeed,' exclaimed Mr. Winkle
warmly. 'I have considered the matter well, for a long time, and
I feel that my happiness is bound up in her.'
'That's wot we call tying it up in a small parcel, sir,' interposed
Mr. Weller, with an agreeable smile.
Mr. Winkle looked somewhat stern at this interruption, and
Mr. Pickwick angrily requested his attendant not to jest with one
of the best feelings of our nature; to which Sam replied, 'That he
wouldn't, if he was aware on it; but there were so many on 'em, that
he hardly know'd which was the best ones wen he heerd 'em mentioned.'
Mr. Winkle then recounted what had passed between himself
and Mr. Ben Allen, relative to Arabella; stated that his object was
to gain an interview with the young lady, and make a formal
disclosure of his passion; and declared his conviction, founded
on certain dark hints and mutterings of the aforesaid Ben, that,
wherever she was at present immured, it was somewhere near the
Downs. And this was his whole stock of knowledge or suspicion
on the subject.
With this very slight clue to guide him, it was determined that
Mr. Weller should start next morning on an expedition of
discovery; it was also arranged that Mr. Pickwick and Mr.
Winkle, who were less confident of their powers, should parade
the town meanwhile, and accidentally drop in upon Mr. Bob
Sawyer in the course of the day, in the hope of seeing or hearing
something of the young lady's whereabouts.
Accordingly, next morning, Sam Weller issued forth upon his
quest, in no way daunted by the very discouraging prospect
before him; and away he walked, up one street and down another
--we were going to say, up one hill and down another, only it's
all uphill at Clifton--without meeting with anything or anybody
that tended to throw the faintest light on the matter in hand.
Many were the colloquies into which Sam entered with grooms
who were airing horses on roads, and nursemaids who were
airing children in lanes; but nothing could Sam elicit from either
the first-mentioned or the last, which bore the slightest reference
to the object of his artfully-prosecuted inquiries. There were a
great many young ladies in a great many houses, the greater part
whereof were shrewdly suspected by the male and female
domestics to be deeply attached to somebody, or perfectly ready
to become so, if opportunity afforded. But as none among these
young ladies was Miss Arabella Allen, the information left
Sam at exactly the old point of wisdom at which he had stood before.
Sam struggled across the Downs against a good high wind,
wondering whether it was always necessary to hold your hat on
with both hands in that part of the country, and came to a shady
by-place, about which were sprinkled several little villas of quiet
and secluded appearance. Outside a stable door at the bottom of
a long back lane without a thoroughfare, a groom in undress was
idling about, apparently persuading himself that he was doing
something with a spade and a wheel-barrow. We may remark, in
this place, that we have scarcely ever seen a groom near a stable,
in his lazy moments, who has not been, to a greater or less extent,
the victim of this singular delusion.
Sam thought he might as well talk to this groom as to any one
else, especially as he was very tired with walking, and there was a
good large stone just opposite the wheel-barrow; so he strolled
down the lane, and, seating himself on the stone, opened a
conversation with the ease and freedom for which he was remarkable.
'Mornin', old friend,' said Sam.
'Arternoon, you mean,' replied the groom, casting a surly look
'You're wery right, old friend,' said Sam; 'I DO mean arternoon.
How are you?'
'Why, I don't find myself much the better for seeing of you,'
replied the ill-tempered groom.
'That's wery odd--that is,' said Sam, 'for you look so uncommon
cheerful, and seem altogether so lively, that it does vun's
heart good to see you.'
The surly groom looked surlier still at this, but not sufficiently
so to produce any effect upon Sam, who immediately inquired,
with a countenance of great anxiety, whether his master's name
was not Walker.
'No, it ain't,' said the groom.
'Nor Brown, I s'pose?' said Sam.
'No, it ain't.'
'No; nor that @ither,' said the groom.
'Vell,' replied Sam, 'then I'm mistaken, and he hasn't got the
honour o' my acquaintance, which I thought he had. Don't wait
here out o' compliment to me,' said Sam, as the groom wheeled
in the barrow, and prepared to shut the gate. 'Ease afore
ceremony, old boy; I'll excuse you.'
'I'd knock your head off for half-a-crown,' said the surly
groom, bolting one half of the gate.
'Couldn't afford to have it done on those terms,' rejoined Sam.
'It 'ud be worth a life's board wages at least, to you, and 'ud be
cheap at that. Make my compliments indoors. Tell 'em not to
vait dinner for me, and say they needn't mind puttin' any by, for
it'll be cold afore I come in.'
In reply to this, the groom waxing very wroth, muttered a
desire to damage somebody's person; but disappeared without
carrying it into execution, slamming the door angrily after him,
and wholly unheeding Sam's affectionate request, that he would
leave him a lock of his hair before he went.
Sam continued to sit on the large stone, meditating upon what
was best to be done, and revolving in his mind a plan for knocking
at all the doors within five miles of Bristol, taking them at a
hundred and fifty or two hundred a day, and endeavouring to
find Miss Arabella by that expedient, when accident all of a
sudden threw in his way what he might have sat there for a
twelvemonth and yet not found without it.
Into the lane where he sat, there opened three or four garden
gates, belonging to as many houses, which though detached from
each other, were only separated by their gardens. As these were
large and long, and well planted with trees, the houses were not
only at some distance off, but the greater part of them were
nearly concealed from view. Sam was sitting with his eyes fixed
upon the dust-heap outside the next gate to that by which the
groom had disappeared, profoundly turning over in his mind the
difficulties of his present undertaking, when the gate opened, and
a female servant came out into the lane to shake some bedside carpets.
Sam was so very busy with his own thoughts, that it is probable
he would have taken no more notice of the young woman than
just raising his head and remarking that she had a very neat and
pretty figure, if his feelings of gallantry had not been most
strongly roused by observing that she had no one to help her, and
that the carpets seemed too heavy for her single strength. Mr.
Weller was a gentleman of great gallantry in his own way, and he
no sooner remarked this circumstance than he hastily rose from
the large stone, and advanced towards her.
'My dear,' said Sam, sliding up with an air of great respect,
'you'll spile that wery pretty figure out o' all perportion if you
shake them carpets by yourself. Let me help you.'
The young lady, who had been coyly affecting not to know
that a gentleman was so near, turned round as Sam spoke--no
doubt (indeed she said so, afterwards) to decline this offer from a
perfect stranger--when instead of speaking, she started back, and
uttered a half-suppressed scream. Sam was scarcely less staggered,
for in the countenance of the well-shaped female servant, he
beheld the very features of his valentine, the pretty housemaid
from Mr. Nupkins's.
'Wy, Mary, my dear!' said Sam.
'Lauk, Mr. Weller,' said Mary, 'how you do frighten one!'
Sam made no verbal answer to this complaint, nor can we
precisely say what reply he did make. We merely know that after
a short pause Mary said, 'Lor, do adun, Mr. Weller!' and that his
hat had fallen off a few moments before--from both of which
tokens we should be disposed to infer that one kiss, or more, had
passed between the parties.
'Why, how did you come here?' said Mary, when the conversation
to which this interruption had been offered, was
'O' course I came to look arter you, my darlin',' replied Mr.
Weller; for once permitting his passion to get the better of
'And how did you know I was here?' inquired Mary. 'Who
could have told you that I took another service at Ipswich, and
that they afterwards moved all the way here? Who COULD have
told you that, Mr. Weller?'
'Ah, to be sure,' said Sam, with a cunning look, 'that's the
pint. Who could ha' told me?'
'It wasn't Mr. Muzzle, was it?' inquired Mary.
'Oh, no.' replied Sam, with a solemn shake of the head, 'it
'It must have been the cook,' said Mary.
'O' course it must,' said Sam.
'Well, I never heard the like of that!' exclaimed Mary.
'No more did I,' said Sam. 'But Mary, my dear'--here Sam's
manner grew extremely affectionate--'Mary, my dear, I've got
another affair in hand as is wery pressin'. There's one o' my
governor's friends--Mr. Winkle, you remember him?'
'Him in the green coat?' said Mary. 'Oh, yes, I remember him.'
'Well,' said Sam, 'he's in a horrid state o' love; reg'larly
comfoozled, and done over vith it.'
'Lor!' interposed Mary.
'Yes,' said Sam; 'but that's nothin' if we could find out the
young 'ooman;' and here Sam, with many digressions upon the
personal beauty of Mary, and the unspeakable tortures he had
experienced since he last saw her, gave a faithful account of
Mr. Winkle's present predicament.
'Well,' said Mary, 'I never did!'
'O' course not,' said Sam, 'and nobody never did, nor never
vill neither; and here am I a-walkin' about like the wandering
Jew--a sportin' character you have perhaps heerd on Mary, my
dear, as vos alvays doin' a match agin' time, and never vent to
sleep--looking arter this here Miss Arabella Allen.'
'Miss who?' said Mary, in great astonishment.
'Miss Arabella Allen,' said Sam.
'Goodness gracious!' said Mary, pointing to the garden door
which the sulky groom had locked after him. 'Why, it's that very
house; she's been living there these six weeks. Their upper house-
maid, which is lady's-maid too, told me all about it over the
wash-house palin's before the family was out of bed, one mornin'.'
'Wot, the wery next door to you?' said Sam.
'The very next,' replied Mary.
Mr. Weller was so deeply overcome on receiving this intelligence
that he found it absolutely necessary to cling to his fair
informant for support; and divers little love passages had passed
between them, before he was sufficiently collected to return to
'Vell,' said Sam at length, 'if this don't beat cock-fightin'
nothin' never vill, as the lord mayor said, ven the chief secretary
o' state proposed his missis's health arter dinner. That wery next
house! Wy, I've got a message to her as I've been a-trying all day
'Ah,' said Mary, 'but you can't deliver it now, because she only
walks in the garden in the evening, and then only for a very little
time; she never goes out, without the old lady.'
Sam ruminated for a few moments, and finally hit upon the
following plan of operations; that he should return just at dusk
--the time at which Arabella invariably took her walk--and,
being admitted by Mary into the garden of the house to which she
belonged, would contrive to scramble up the wall, beneath the
overhanging boughs of a large pear-tree, which would effectually
screen him from observation; would there deliver his message,
and arrange, if possible, an interview on behalf of Mr. Winkle for
the ensuing evening at the same hour. Having made this arrangement
with great despatch, he assisted Mary in the long-deferred
occupation of shaking the carpets.
It is not half as innocent a thing as it looks, that shaking little
pieces of carpet--at least, there may be no great harm in the
shaking, but the folding is a very insidious process. So long as the
shaking lasts, and the two parties are kept the carpet's length
apart, it is as innocent an amusement as can well be devised;
but when the folding begins, and the distance between them gets
gradually lessened from one half its former length to a quarter,
and then to an eighth, and then to a sixteenth, and then to a
thirty-second, if the carpet be long enough, it becomes dangerous.
We do not know, to a nicety, how many pieces of carpet were
folded in this instance, but we can venture to state that as many
pieces as there were, so many times did Sam kiss the pretty housemaid.
Mr. Weller regaled himself with moderation at the nearest
tavern until it was nearly dusk, and then returned to the lane
without the thoroughfare. Having been admitted into the
garden by Mary, and having received from that lady sundry
admonitions concerning the safety of his limbs and neck, Sam
mounted into the pear-tree, to wait until Arabella should come
He waited so long without this anxiously-expected event
occurring, that he began to think it was not going to take place
at all, when he heard light footsteps upon the gravel, and
immediately afterwards beheld Arabella walking pensively down
the garden. As soon as she came nearly below the tree, Sam
began, by way of gently indicating his presence, to make sundry
diabolical noises similar to those which would probably be
natural to a person of middle age who had been afflicted with a
combination of inflammatory sore throat, croup, and whooping-
cough, from his earliest infancy.
Upon this, the young lady cast a hurried glance towards the
spot whence the dreadful sounds proceeded; and her previous
alarm being not at all diminished when she saw a man among the
branches, she would most certainly have decamped, and alarmed
the house, had not fear fortunately deprived her of the power of
moving, and caused her to sink down on a garden seat, which
happened by good luck to be near at hand.
'She's a-goin' off,' soliloquised Sam in great perplexity. 'Wot
a thing it is, as these here young creeturs will go a-faintin' avay
just ven they oughtn't to. Here, young 'ooman, Miss Sawbones,
Mrs. Vinkle, don't!'
Whether it was the magic of Mr. Winkle's name, or the coolness
of the open air, or some recollection of Mr. Weller's voice,
that revived Arabella, matters not. She raised her head and
languidly inquired, 'Who's that, and what do you want?'
'Hush,' said Sam, swinging himself on to the wall, and crouching
there in as small a compass as he could reduce himself to,
'only me, miss, only me.'
'Mr. Pickwick's servant!' said Arabella earnestly.
'The wery same, miss,' replied Sam. 'Here's Mr. Vinkle
reg'larly sewed up vith desperation, miss.'
'Ah!' said Arabella, drawing nearer the wall.
'Ah, indeed,' said Sam. 'Ve thought ve should ha' been
obliged to strait-veskit him last night; he's been a-ravin' all day;
and he says if he can't see you afore to-morrow night's over, he
vishes he may be somethin' unpleasanted if he don't drownd hisself.'
'Oh, no, no, Mr. Weller!' said Arabella, clasping her hands.
'That's wot he says, miss,' replied Sam coolly. 'He's a man of
his word, and it's my opinion he'll do it, miss. He's heerd all
about you from the sawbones in barnacles.'
'From my brother!' said Arabella, having some faint recognition
of Sam's description.
'I don't rightly know which is your brother, miss,' replied Sam.
'Is it the dirtiest vun o' the two?'
'Yes, yes, Mr. Weller,' returned Arabella, 'go on. Make haste, pray.'
'Well, miss,' said Sam, 'he's heerd all about it from him; and
it's the gov'nor's opinion that if you don't see him wery quick,
the sawbones as we've been a-speakin' on, 'ull get as much extra
lead in his head as'll rayther damage the dewelopment o' the
orgins if they ever put it in spirits artervards.'
'Oh, what can I do to prevent these dreadful quarrels!'
'It's the suspicion of a priory 'tachment as is the cause of it all,'
replied Sam. 'You'd better see him, miss.'
'But how?--where?'cried Arabella. 'I dare not leave the house
alone. My brother is so unkind, so unreasonable! I know how
strange my talking thus to you may appear, Mr. Weller, but I am
very, very unhappy--' and here poor Arabella wept so bitterly
that Sam grew chivalrous.
'It may seem wery strange talkin' to me about these here
affairs, miss,' said Sam, with great vehemence; 'but all I can say
is, that I'm not only ready but villin' to do anythin' as'll make
matters agreeable; and if chuckin' either o' them sawboneses out
o' winder 'ull do it, I'm the man.' As Sam Weller said this, he
tucked up his wristbands, at the imminent hazard of falling off the
wall in so doing, to intimate his readiness to set to work immediately.
Flattering as these professions of good feeling were, Arabella
resolutely declined (most unaccountably, as Sam thought) to
avail herself of them. For some time she strenuously refused to
grant Mr. Winkle the interview Sam had so pathetically requested;
but at length, when the conversation threatened to be
interrupted by the unwelcome arrival of a third party, she
hurriedly gave him to understand, with many professions of
gratitude, that it was barely possible she might be in the garden
an hour later, next evening. Sam understood this perfectly well;
and Arabella, bestowing upon him one of her sweetest smiles,
tripped gracefully away, leaving Mr. Weller in a state of very
great admiration of her charms, both personal and mental.
Having descended in safety from the wall, and not forgotten
to devote a few moments to his own particular business in the
same department, Mr. Weller then made the best of his way back
to the Bush, where his prolonged absence had occasioned much
speculation and some alarm.
'We must be careful,' said Mr. Pickwick, after listening
attentively to Sam's tale, 'not for our sakes, but for that of the
young lady. We must be very cautious.'
'WE!' said Mr. Winkle, with marked emphasis.
Mr. Pickwick's momentary look of indignation at the tone of
this remark, subsided into his characteristic expression of
benevolence, as he replied--
'WE, Sir! I shall accompany you.'
'You!' said Mr. Winkle.
'I,' replied Mr. Pickwick mildly. 'In affording you this interview,
the young lady has taken a natural, perhaps, but still a
very imprudent step. If I am present at the meeting--a mutual
friend, who is old enough to be the father of both parties--the
voice of calumny can never be raised against her hereafter.'
Mr. Pickwick's eyes lightened with honest exultation at his
own foresight, as he spoke thus. Mr. Winkle was touched by this
little trait of his delicate respect for the young PROTEGEE of his
friend, and took his hand with a feeling of regard, akin to veneration.
'You SHALL go,' said Mr. Winkle.
'I will,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Sam, have my greatcoat and shawl
ready, and order a conveyance to be at the door to-morrow
evening, rather earlier than is absolutely necessary, in order that
we may be in good time.'
Mr. Weller touched his hat, as an earnest of his obedience,
and withdrew to make all needful preparations for the expedition.
The coach was punctual to the time appointed; and Mr. Weller,
after duly installing Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle inside, took
his seat on the box by the driver. They alighted, as had been
agreed on, about a quarter of a mile from the place of rendezvous,
and desiring the coachman to await their return, proceeded the
remaining distance on foot.
It was at this stage of the undertaking that Mr. Pickwick, with
many smiles and various other indications of great self-satisfaction,
produced from one of his coat pockets a dark lantern, with
which he had specially provided himself for the occasion, and the
great mechanical beauty of which he proceeded to explain to
Mr. Winkle, as they walked along, to the no small surprise of the
few stragglers they met.
'I should have been the better for something of this kind, in
my last garden expedition, at night; eh, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick,
looking good-humouredly round at his follower, who was
'Wery nice things, if they're managed properly, Sir,' replied
Mr. Weller; 'but wen you don't want to be seen, I think they're
more useful arter the candle's gone out, than wen it's alight.'
Mr. Pickwick appeared struck by Sam's remarks, for he put
the lantern into his pocket again, and they walked on in silence.
'Down here, Sir,' said Sam. 'Let me lead the way. This is the
Down the lane they went, and dark enough it was. Mr. Pickwick
brought out the lantern, once or twice, as they groped their
way along, and threw a very brilliant little tunnel of light before
them, about a foot in diameter. It was very pretty to look at, but
seemed to have the effect of rendering surrounding objects
rather darker than before.
At length they arrived at the large stone. Here Sam recommended
his master and Mr. Winkle to seat themselves, while
he reconnoitred, and ascertained whether Mary was yet in waiting.
After an absence of five or ten minutes, Sam returned to say
that the gate was opened, and all quiet. Following him with
stealthy tread, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle soon found themselves
in the garden. Here everybody said, 'Hush!' a good many
times; and that being done, no one seemed to have any very
distinct apprehension of what was to be done next.
'Is Miss Allen in the garden yet, Mary?' inquired Mr. Winkle,
'I don't know, sir,' replied the pretty housemaid. 'The best
thing to be done, sir, will be for Mr. Weller to give you a hoist up
into the tree, and perhaps Mr. Pickwick will have the goodness
to see that nobody comes up the lane, while I watch at the other
end of the garden. Goodness gracious, what's that?'
'That 'ere blessed lantern 'ull be the death on us all,' exclaimed
Sam peevishly. 'Take care wot you're a-doin' on, sir; you're
a-sendin' a blaze o' light, right into the back parlour winder.'
'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick, turning hastily aside, 'I didn't
mean to do that.'
'Now, it's in the next house, sir,' remonstrated Sam.
'Bless my heart!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning round again.
'Now, it's in the stable, and they'll think the place is afire,' said
Sam. 'Shut it up, sir, can't you?'
'It's the most extraordinary lantern I ever met with, in all my
life!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, greatly bewildered by the effects
he had so unintentionally produced. 'I never saw such a powerful
'It'll be vun too powerful for us, if you keep blazin' avay in
that manner, sir,' replied Sam, as Mr. Pickwick, after various
unsuccessful efforts, managed to close the slide. 'There's the
young lady's footsteps. Now, Mr. Winkle, sir, up vith you.'
'Stop, stop!' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I must speak to her first.
Help me up, Sam.'
'Gently, Sir,' said Sam, planting his head against the wall, and
making a platform of his back. 'Step atop o' that 'ere flower-pot,
Sir. Now then, up vith you.'
'I'm afraid I shall hurt you, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Never mind me, Sir,' replied Sam. 'Lend him a hand, Mr.
Winkle. sir. Steady, sir, steady! That's the time o' day!'
As Sam spoke, Mr. Pickwick, by exertions almost supernatural
in a gentleman of his years and weight, contrived to get upon
Sam's back; and Sam gently raising himself up, and Mr. Pickwick
holding on fast by the top of the wall, while Mr. Winkle
clasped him tight by the legs, they contrived by these means to
bring his spectacles just above the level of the coping.
'My dear,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking over the wall, and
catching sight of Arabella, on the other side, 'don't be frightened,
my dear, it's only me.'
'Oh, pray go away, Mr. Pickwick,' said Arabella. 'Tell them all
to go away. I am so dreadfully frightened. Dear, dear Mr.
Pickwick, don't stop there. You'll fall down and kill yourself, I
know you will.'
'Now, pray don't alarm yourself, my dear,' said Mr. Pickwick
soothingly. 'There is not the least cause for fear, I assure you.
Stand firm, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking down.
'All right, sir,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Don't be longer than you
can conweniently help, sir. You're rayther heavy.'
'Only another moment, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'I merely wished you to know, my dear, that I should not have
allowed my young friend to see you in this clandestine way, if the
situation in which you are placed had left him any alternative;
and, lest the impropriety of this step should cause you any
uneasiness, my love, it may be a satisfaction to you, to know that
I am present. That's all, my dear.'
'Indeed, Mr. Pickwick, I am very much obliged to you for your
kindness and consideration,' replied Arabella, drying her tears
with her handkerchief. She would probably have said much more,
had not Mr. Pickwick's head disappeared with great swiftness, in
consequence of a false step on Sam's shoulder which brought
him suddenly to the ground. He was up again in an instant
however; and bidding Mr. Winkle make haste and get the interview
over, ran out into the lane to keep watch, with all the
courage and ardour of youth. Mr. Winkle himself, inspired by
the occasion, was on the wall in a moment, merely pausing to
request Sam to be careful of his master.
'I'll take care on him, sir,' replied Sam. 'Leave him to me.'
'Where is he? What's he doing, Sam?' inquired Mr. Winkle.
'Bless his old gaiters,' rejoined Sam, looking out at the garden
door. 'He's a-keepin' guard in the lane vith that 'ere dark lantern,
like a amiable Guy Fawkes! I never see such a fine creetur in my
days. Blessed if I don't think his heart must ha' been born five-
and-twenty year arter his body, at least!'
Mr. Winkle stayed not to hear the encomium upon his friend.
He had dropped from the wall; thrown himself at Arabella's
feet; and by this time was pleading the sincerity of his passion
with an eloquence worthy even of Mr. Pickwick himself.
While these things were going on in the open air, an elderly
gentleman of scientific attainments was seated in his library, two
or three houses off, writing a philosophical treatise, and ever and
anon moistening his clay and his labours with a glass of claret
from a venerable-looking bottle which stood by his side. In the
agonies of composition, the elderly gentleman looked sometimes
at the carpet, sometimes at the ceiling, and sometimes at the wall;
and when neither carpet, ceiling, nor wall afforded the requisite
degree of inspiration, he looked out of the window.
In one of these pauses of invention, the scientific gentleman
was gazing abstractedly on the thick darkness outside, when he
was very much surprised by observing a most brilliant light glide
through the air, at a short distance above the ground, and almost
instantaneously vanish. After a short time the phenomenon was
repeated, not once or twice, but several times; at last the scientific
gentleman, laying down his pen, began to consider to what
natural causes these appearances were to be assigned.
They were not meteors; they were too low. They were not
glow-worms; they were too high. They were not will-o'-the-
wisps; they were not fireflies; they were not fireworks. What could
they be? Some extraordinary and wonderful phenomenon of
nature, which no philosopher had ever seen before; something
which it had been reserved for him alone to discover, and which
he should immortalise his name by chronicling for the benefit of
posterity. Full of this idea, the scientific gentleman seized his
pen again, and committed to paper sundry notes of these
unparalleled appearances, with the date, day, hour, minute, and
precise second at which they were visible: all of which were to
form the data of a voluminous treatise of great research and deep
learning, which should astonish all the atmospherical wiseacres
that ever drew breath in any part of the civilised globe.
He threw himself back in his easy-chair, wrapped in
contemplations of his future greatness. The mysterious light appeared
more brilliantly than before, dancing, to all appearance, up and
down the lane, crossing from side to side, and moving in an
orbit as eccentric as comets themselves.
The scientific gentleman was a bachelor. He had no wife to call
in and astonish, so he rang the bell for his servant.
'Pruffle,' said the scientific gentleman, 'there is something very
extraordinary in the air to-night? Did you see that?' said the
scientific gentleman, pointing out of the window, as the light
again became visible.
'Yes, I did, Sir.'
'What do you think of it, Pruffle?'
'Think of it, Sir?'
'Yes. You have been bred up in this country. What should you
say was the cause for those lights, now?'
The scientific gentleman smilingly anticipated Pruffle's reply
that he could assign no cause for them at all. Pruffle meditated.
'I should say it was thieves, Sir,' said Pruffle at length.
'You're a fool, and may go downstairs,' said the scientific gentleman.
'Thank you, Sir,' said Pruffle. And down he went.
But the scientific gentleman could not rest under the idea of the
ingenious treatise he had projected being lost to the world, which
must inevitably be the case if the speculation of the ingenious
Mr. Pruffle were not stifled in its birth. He put on his hat and
walked quickly down the garden, determined to investigate the
matter to the very bottom.
Now, shortly before the scientific gentleman walked out into
the garden, Mr. Pickwick had run down the lane as fast as he
could, to convey a false alarm that somebody was coming that
way; occasionally drawing back the slide of the dark lantern to
keep himself from the ditch. The alarm was no sooner given,
than Mr. Winkle scrambled back over the wall, and Arabella ran
into the house; the garden gate was shut, and the three adventurers
were making the best of their way down the lane, when
they were startled by the scientific gentleman unlocking his
'Hold hard,' whispered Sam, who was, of course, the first of
the party. 'Show a light for just vun second, Sir.'
Mr. Pickwick did as he was desired, and Sam, seeing a man's
head peeping out very cautiously within half a yard of his own,
gave it a gentle tap with his clenched fist, which knocked it, with
a hollow sound, against the gate. Having performed this feat with
great suddenness and dexterity, Mr. Weller caught Mr. Pickwick
up on his back, and followed Mr. Winkle down the lane at a pace
which, considering the burden he carried, was perfectly astonishing.
'Have you got your vind back agin, Sir,' inquired Sam, when
they had reached the end.
'Quite. Quite, now,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Then come along, Sir,' said Sam, setting his master on his feet
again. 'Come betveen us, sir. Not half a mile to run. Think you're
vinnin' a cup, sir. Now for it.'
Thus encouraged, Mr. Pickwick made the very best use of his
legs. It may be confidently stated that a pair of black gaiters
never got over the ground in better style than did those of Mr.
Pickwick on this memorable occasion.
The coach was waiting, the horses were fresh, the roads were
good, and the driver was willing. The whole party arrived in
safety at the Bush before Mr. Pickwick had recovered his breath.
'in with you at once, sir,' said Sam, as he helped his master out.
'Don't stop a second in the street, arter that 'ere exercise. Beg
your pardon, sir,'continued Sam, touching his hat as Mr. Winkle
descended, 'hope there warn't a priory 'tachment, sir?'
Mr. Winkle grasped his humble friend by the hand, and
whispered in his ear, 'It's all right, Sam; quite right.' Upon which
Mr. Weller struck three distinct blows upon his nose in token of
intelligence, smiled, winked, and proceeded to put the steps up,
with a countenance expressive of lively satisfaction.
As to the scientific gentleman, he demonstrated, in a masterly
treatise, that these wonderful lights were the effect of electricity;
and clearly proved the same by detailing how a flash of fire
danced before his eyes when he put his head out of the gate, and
how he received a shock which stunned him for a quarter of an
hour afterwards; which demonstration delighted all the scientific
associations beyond measure, and caused him to be considered a
light of science ever afterwards.
INTRODUCES Mr. PICKWICK TO A NEW AND NOT UNINTERESTING
SCENE IN THE GREAT DRAMA OF LIFE
The remainder of the period which Mr. Pickwick had assigned
as the duration of the stay at Bath passed over without the
occurrence of anything material. Trinity term commenced. On the
expiration of its first week, Mr. Pickwick and his friends returned
to London; and the former gentleman, attended of course by Sam,
straightway repaired to his old quarters at the George and Vulture.
On the third morning after their arrival, just as all the clocks in
the city were striking nine individually, and somewhere about
nine hundred and ninety-nine collectively, Sam was taking the air
in George Yard, when a queer sort of fresh-painted vehicle drove
up, out of which there jumped with great agility, throwing the
reins to a stout man who sat beside him, a queer sort of gentleman,
who seemed made for the vehicle, and the vehicle for him.
The vehicle was not exactly a gig, neither was it a stanhope. It
was not what is currently denominated a dog-cart, neither was it
a taxed cart, nor a chaise-cart, nor a guillotined cabriolet; and
yet it had something of the character of each and every of these
machines. It was painted a bright yellow, with the shafts and
wheels picked out in black; and the driver sat in the orthodox
sporting style, on cushions piled about two feet above the rail.
The horse was a bay, a well-looking animal enough; but with
something of a flash and dog-fighting air about him, nevertheless,
which accorded both with the vehicle and his master.
The master himself was a man of about forty, with black hair,
and carefully combed whiskers. He was dressed in a particularly
gorgeous manner, with plenty of articles of jewellery about him--
all about three sizes larger than those which are usually worn by
gentlemen--and a rough greatcoat to crown the whole. Into one
pocket of this greatcoat, he thrust his left hand the moment he
dismounted, while from the other he drew forth, with his right, a
very bright and glaring silk handkerchief, with which he whisked
a speck or two of dust from his boots, and then, crumpling it in
his hand, swaggered up the court.
It had not escaped Sam's attention that, when this person
dismounted, a shabby-looking man in a brown greatcoat shorn
of divers buttons, who had been previously slinking about, on the
opposite side of the way, crossed over, and remained stationary
close by. Having something more than a suspicion of the object
of the gentleman's visit, Sam preceded him to the George and
Vulture, and, turning sharp round, planted himself in the Centre
of the doorway.
'Now, my fine fellow!' said the man in the rough coat, in an
imperious tone, attempting at the same time to push his way past.
'Now, Sir, wot's the matter?' replied Sam, returning the push
with compound interest.
'Come, none of this, my man; this won't do with me,' said the
owner of the rough coat, raising his voice, and turning white.
'Well, wot's amiss here?' growled the man in the brown coat, who
had been gradually sneaking up the court during this short dialogue.
'Only some insolence of this young man's,' said the principal,
giving Sam another push.
'Come, none o' this gammon,' growled Smouch, giving him
another, and a harder one.
This last push had the effect which it was intended by the
experienced Mr. Smouch to produce; for while Sam, anxious to
return the compliment, was grinding that gentleman's body
against the door-post, the principal crept past, and made his way
to the bar, whither Sam, after bandying a few epithetical remarks
with Mr. Smouch, followed at once.
'Good-morning, my dear,' said the principal, addressing the
young lady at the bar, with Botany Bay ease, and New South
Wales gentility; 'which is Mr. Pickwick's room, my dear?'
'Show him up,' said the barmaid to a waiter, without deigning
another look at the exquisite, in reply to his inquiry.
The waiter led the way upstairs as he was desired, and the man
in the rough coat followed, with Sam behind him, who, in his
progress up the staircase, indulged in sundry gestures indicative
of supreme contempt and defiance, to the unspeakable gratification
of the servants and other lookers-on. Mr. Smouch, who was
troubled with a hoarse cough, remained below, and expectorated
in the passage.
Mr. Pickwick was fast asleep in bed, when his early visitor,
followed by Sam, entered the room. The noise they made, in so
doing, awoke him.
'Shaving-water, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, from within the curtains.
'Shave you directly, Mr. Pickwick,' said the visitor, drawing
one of them back from the bed's head. 'I've got an execution
against you, at the suit of Bardell.--Here's the warrant.--
Common Pleas.--Here's my card. I suppose you'll come over to
my house.' Giving Mr. Pickwick a friendly tap on the shoulder,
the sheriff's officer (for such he was) threw his card on the
counterpane, and pulled a gold toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.
'Namby's the name,' said the sheriff's deputy, as Mr. Pickwick
took his spectacles from under the pillow, and put them on, to
read the card. 'Namby, Bell Alley, Coleman Street.'
At this point, Sam Weller, who had had his eyes fixed hitherto
on Mr. Namby's shining beaver, interfered.
'Are you a Quaker?' said Sam.
'I'll let you know I am, before I've done with you,' replied the
indignant officer. 'I'll teach you manners, my fine fellow, one of
these fine mornings.'
'Thank'ee,' said Sam. 'I'll do the same to you. Take your hat
off.' With this, Mr. Weller, in the most dexterous manner,
knocked Mr. Namby's hat to the other side of the room, with
such violence, that he had very nearly caused him to swallow the
gold toothpick into the bargain.
'Observe this, Mr. Pickwick,' said the disconcerted officer,
gasping for breath. 'I've been assaulted in the execution of my
dooty by your servant in your chamber. I'm in bodily fear. I call
you to witness this.'
'Don't witness nothin', Sir,' interposed Sam. 'Shut your eyes
up tight, Sir. I'd pitch him out o' winder, only he couldn't fall far
enough, 'cause o' the leads outside.'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, in an angry voice, as his attendant
made various demonstrations of hostilities, 'if you say another
word, or offer the slightest interference with this person, I
discharge you that instant.'
'But, Sir!' said Sam.
'Hold your tongue,' interposed Mr. Pickwick. 'Take that hat
But this Sam flatly and positively refused to do; and, after he
had been severely reprimanded by his master, the officer, being
in a hurry, condescended to pick it up himself, venting a great
variety of threats against Sam meanwhile, which that gentleman
received with perfect composure, merely observing that if Mr.
Namby would have the goodness to put his hat on again, he
would knock it into the latter end of next week. Mr. Namby,
perhaps thinking that such a process might be productive of
inconvenience to himself, declined to offer the temptation, and,
soon after, called up Smouch. Having informed him that the
capture was made, and that he was to wait for the prisoner until
he should have finished dressing, Namby then swaggered out, and
drove away. Smouch, requesting Mr. Pickwick in a surly manner
'to be as alive as he could, for it was a busy time,' drew up a chair
by the door and sat there, until he had finished dressing. Sam was
then despatched for a hackney-coach, and in it the triumvirate
proceeded to Coleman Street. It was fortunate the distance was
short; for Mr. Smouch, besides possessing no very enchanting
conversational powers, was rendered a decidedly unpleasant
companion in a limited space, by the physical weakness to which
we have elsewhere adverted.
The coach having turned into a very narrow and dark street,
stopped before a house with iron bars to all the windows; the
door-posts of which were graced by the name and title of
'Namby, Officer to the Sheriffs of London'; the inner gate having
been opened by a gentleman who might have passed for a
neglected twin-brother of Mr. Smouch, and who was endowed
with a large key for the purpose, Mr. Pickwick was shown into
This coffee-room was a front parlour, the principal features of
which were fresh sand and stale tobacco smoke. Mr. Pickwick
bowed to the three persons who were seated in it when he
entered; and having despatched Sam for Perker, withdrew into
an obscure corner, and looked thence with some curiosity upon
his new companions.
One of these was a mere boy of nineteen or twenty, who,
though it was yet barely ten o'clock, was drinking gin-and-water,
and smoking a cigar--amusements to which, judging from his
inflamed countenance, he had devoted himself pretty constantly
for the last year or two of his life. Opposite him, engaged in
stirring the fire with the toe of his right boot, was a coarse,
vulgar young man of about thirty, with a sallow face and harsh
voice; evidently possessed of that knowledge of the world, and
captivating freedom of manner, which is to be acquired in
public-house parlours, and at low billiard tables. The third
tenant of the apartment was a middle-aged man in a very old suit
of black, who looked pale and haggard, and paced up and down
the room incessantly; stopping, now and then, to look with
great anxiety out of the window as if he expected somebody, and
then resuming his walk.
'You'd better have the loan of my razor this morning, Mr.
Ayresleigh,' said the man who was stirring the fire, tipping the
wink to his friend the boy.
'Thank you, no, I shan't want it; I expect I shall be out, in the
course of an hour or so,' replied the other in a hurried manner.
Then, walking again up to the window, and once more returning
disappointed, he sighed deeply, and left the room; upon which
the other two burst into a loud laugh.
'Well, I never saw such a game as that,' said the gentleman
who had offered the razor, whose name appeared to be Price.
'Never!' Mr. Price confirmed the assertion with an oath, and
then laughed again, when of course the boy (who thought his
companion one of the most dashing fellows alive) laughed also.
'You'd hardly think, would you now,' said Price, turning
towards Mr. Pickwick, 'that that chap's been here a week
yesterday, and never once shaved himself yet, because he feels so
certain he's going out in half an hour's time, thinks he may as
well put it off till he gets home?'
'Poor man!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Are his chances of getting out
of his difficulties really so great?'
'Chances be d--d,' replied Price; 'he hasn't half the ghost of
one. I wouldn't give THAT for his chance of walking about the
streets this time ten years.' With this, Mr. Price snapped his
fingers contemptuously, and rang the bell.
'Give me a sheet of paper, Crookey,' said Mr. Price to the
attendant, who in dress and general appearance looked something
between a bankrupt glazier, and a drover in a state of
insolvency; 'and a glass of brandy-and-water, Crookey, d'ye
hear? I'm going to write to my father, and I must have a
stimulant, or I shan't be able to pitch it strong enough into the
old boy.' At this facetious speech, the young boy, it is almost
needless to say, was fairly convulsed.
'That's right,' said Mr. Price. 'Never say die. All fun, ain't it?'
'Prime!' said the young gentleman.
'You've got some spirit about you, you have,' said Price.
'You've seen something of life.'
'I rather think I have!' replied the boy. He had looked at it
through the dirty panes of glass in a bar door.
Mr. Pickwick, feeling not a little disgusted with this dialogue,
as well as with the air and manner of the two beings by whom it
had been carried on, was about to inquire whether he could not
be accommodated with a private sitting-room, when two or three
strangers of genteel appearance entered, at sight of whom the
boy threw his cigar into the fire, and whispering to Mr. Price
that they had come to 'make it all right' for him, joined them at a
table in the farther end of the room.
It would appear, however, that matters were not going to be
made all right quite so speedily as the young gentleman anticipated;
for a very long conversation ensued, of which Mr.
Pickwick could not avoid hearing certain angry fragments
regarding dissolute conduct, and repeated forgiveness. At last,
there were very distinct allusions made by the oldest gentleman
of the party to one Whitecross Street, at which the young gentleman,
notwithstanding his primeness and his spirit, and his
knowledge of life into the bargain, reclined his head upon the
table, and howled dismally.
Very much satisfied with this sudden bringing down of the
youth's valour, and this effectual lowering of his tone, Mr. Pickwick
rang the bell, and was shown, at his own request, into a
private room furnished with a carpet, table, chairs, sideboard and
sofa, and ornamented with a looking-glass, and various old
prints. Here he had the advantage of hearing Mrs. Namby's
performance on a square piano overhead, while the breakfast was
getting ready; when it came, Mr. Perker came too.
'Aha, my dear sir,' said the little man, 'nailed at last, eh?
Come, come, I'm not sorry for it either, because now you'll see
the absurdity of this conduct. I've noted down the amount of the
taxed costs and damages for which the ca-sa was issued, and we
had better settle at once and lose no time. Namby is come home
by this time, I dare say. What say you, my dear sir? Shall I draw
a cheque, or will you?' The little man rubbed his hands with
affected cheerfulness as he said this, but glancing at Mr. Pickwick's
countenance, could not forbear at the same time casting a
desponding look towards Sam Weller.
'Perker,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'let me hear no more of this, I beg.
I see no advantage in staying here, so I Shall go to prison to-night.'
'You can't go to Whitecross Street, my dear Sir,' said Perker.
'Impossible! There are sixty beds in a ward; and the bolt's on,
sixteen hours out of the four-and-twenty.'
'I would rather go to some other place of confinement if I can,'
said Mr. Pickwick. 'If not, I must make the best I can of that.'
'You can go to the Fleet, my dear Sir, if you're determined to
go somewhere,' said Perker.
'That'll do,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I'll go there directly I have
finished my breakfast.'
'Stop, stop, my dear Sir; not the least occasion for being in such
a violent hurry to get into a place that most other men are as
eager to get out of,' said the good-natured little attorney. 'We
must have a habeas-corpus. There'll be no judge at chambers till
four o'clock this afternoon. You must wait till then.'
'Very good,' said Mr. Pickwick, with unmoved patience.
'Then we will have a chop here, at two. See about it, Sam, and
tell them to be punctual.'
Mr. Pickwick remaining firm, despite all the remonstrances and
arguments of Perker, the chops appeared and disappeared in due
course; he was then put into another hackney coach, and carried
off to Chancery Lane, after waiting half an hour or so for Mr.
Namby, who had a select dinner-party and could on no account
be disturbed before.
There were two judges in attendance at Serjeant's Inn--one
King's Bench, and one Common Pleas--and a great deal of
business appeared to be transacting before them, if the number
of lawyer's clerks who were hurrying in and out with bundles of
papers, afforded any test. When they reached the low archway
which forms the entrance to the inn, Perker was detained a few
moments parlaying with the coachman about the fare and the
change; and Mr. Pickwick, stepping to one side to be out of the
way of the stream of people that were pouring in and out, looked
about him with some curiosity.
The people that attracted his attention most, were three or four
men of shabby-genteel appearance, who touched their hats to
many of the attorneys who passed, and seemed to have some
business there, the nature of which Mr. Pickwick could not
divine. They were curious-looking fellows. One was a slim and
rather lame man in rusty black, and a white neckerchief; another
was a stout, burly person, dressed in the same apparel, with a
great reddish-black cloth round his neck; a third was a little
weazen, drunken-looking body, with a pimply face. They were
loitering about, with their hands behind them, and now and then
with an anxious countenance whispered something in the ear of
some of the gentlemen with papers, as they hurried by. Mr.
Pickwick remembered to have very often observed them lounging
under the archway when he had been walking past; and his
curiosity was quite excited to know to what branch of the profession
these dingy-looking loungers could possibly belong.
He was about to propound the question to Namby, who kept
close beside him, sucking a large gold ring on his little finger,
when Perker bustled up, and observing that there was no time to
lose, led the way into the inn. As Mr. Pickwick followed, the
lame man stepped up to him, and civilly touching his hat, held
out a written card, which Mr. Pickwick, not wishing to hurt the
man's feelings by refusing, courteously accepted and deposited in
his waistcoat pocket.
'Now,' said Perker, turning round before he entered one of the
offices, to see that his companions were close behind him. 'In
here, my dear sir. Hallo, what do you want?'
This last question was addressed to the lame man, who,
unobserved by Mr. Pickwick, made one of the party. In reply to it,
the lame man touched his hat again, with all imaginable politeness,
and motioned towards Mr. Pickwick.
'No, no,' said Perker, with a smile. 'We don't want you, my
dear friend, we don't want you.'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the lame man. 'The gentleman
took my card. I hope you will employ me, sir. The gentleman
nodded to me. I'll be judged by the gentleman himself. You
nodded to me, sir?'
'Pooh, pooh, nonsense. You didn't nod to anybody, Pickwick?
A mistake, a mistake,' said Perker.
'The gentleman handed me his card,' replied Mr. Pickwick,
producing it from his waistcoat pocket. 'I accepted it, as the
gentleman seemed to wish it--in fact I had some curiosity to look
at it when I should be at leisure. I--'
The little attorney burst into a loud laugh, and returning the
card to the lame man, informing him it was all a mistake,
whispered to Mr. Pickwick as the man turned away in dudgeon,
that he was only a bail.
'A what!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'A bail,' replied Perker.
'Yes, my dear sir--half a dozen of 'em here. Bail you to any
amount, and only charge half a crown. Curious trade, isn't it?'
said Perker, regaling himself with a pinch of snuff.
'What! Am I to understand that these men earn a livelihood
by waiting about here, to perjure themselves before the judges of
the land, at the rate of half a crown a crime?' exclaimed Mr.
Pickwick, quite aghast at the disclosure.
'Why, I don't exactly know about perjury, my dear sir,' replied
the little gentleman. 'Harsh word, my dear sir, very harsh word
indeed. It's a legal fiction, my dear sir, nothing more.' Saying
which, the attorney shrugged his shoulders, smiled, took a second
pinch of snuff, and led the way into the office of the judge's clerk.
This was a room of specially dirty appearance, with a very low
ceiling and old panelled walls; and so badly lighted, that although
it was broad day outside, great tallow candles were burning on
the desks. At one end, was a door leading to the judge's private
apartment, round which were congregated a crowd of attorneys
and managing clerks, who were called in, in the order in which
their respective appointments stood upon the file. Every time this
door was opened to let a party out, the next party made a violent
rush to get in; and, as in addition to the numerous dialogues
which passed between the gentlemen who were waiting to see the
judge, a variety of personal squabbles ensued between the greater
part of those who had seen him, there was as much noise as could
well be raised in an apartment of such confined dimensions.
Nor were the conversations of these gentlemen the only sounds
that broke upon the ear. Standing on a box behind a wooden bar
at another end of the room was a clerk in spectacles who was
'taking the affidavits'; large batches of which were, from time to
time, carried into the private room by another clerk for the
judge's signature. There were a large number of attorneys' clerks
to be sworn, and it being a moral impossibility to swear them all
at once, the struggles of these gentlemen to reach the clerk in
spectacles, were like those of a crowd to get in at the pit door of a
theatre when Gracious Majesty honours it with its presence.
Another functionary, from time to time, exercised his lungs in
calling over the names of those who had been sworn, for the
purpose of restoring to them their affidavits after they had been
signed by the judge, which gave rise to a few more scuffles; and
all these things going on at the same time, occasioned as much
bustle as the most active and excitable person could desire to
behold. There were yet another class of persons--those who were
waiting to attend summonses their employers had taken out,
which it was optional to the attorney on the opposite side to
attend or not--and whose business it was, from time to time, to
cry out the opposite attorney's name; to make certain that he
was not in attendance without their knowledge.
For example. Leaning against the wall, close beside the seat
Mr. Pickwick had taken, was an office-lad of fourteen, with a
tenor voice; near him a common-law clerk with a bass one.
A clerk hurried in with a bundle of papers, and stared about him.
'Sniggle and Blink,' cried the tenor.
'Porkin and Snob,' growled the bass.
'Stumpy and Deacon,' said the new-comer.
Nobody answered; the next man who came in, was bailed by
the whole three; and he in his turn shouted for another firm;
and then somebody else roared in a loud voice for another; and
All this time, the man in the spectacles was hard at work,
swearing the clerks; the oath being invariably administered,
without any effort at punctuation, and usually in the following
'Take the book in your right hand this is your name and hand-
writing you swear that the contents of this your affidavit are true
so help you God a shilling you must get change I haven't got it.'
'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I suppose they are getting the
'Yes,' said Sam, 'and I vish they'd bring out the have-his-
carcase. It's wery unpleasant keepin' us vaitin' here. I'd ha' got
half a dozen have-his-carcases ready, pack'd up and all, by this time.'
What sort of cumbrous and unmanageable machine, Sam
Weller imagined a habeas-corpus to be, does not appear;
for Perker, at that moment, walked up and took Mr. Pickwick away.
The usual forms having been gone through, the body of
Samuel Pickwick was soon afterwards confided to the custody of
the tipstaff, to be by him taken to the warden of the Fleet Prison,
and there detained until the amount of the damages and costs in
the action of Bardell against Pickwick was fully paid
'And that,' said Mr. Pickwick, laughing, 'will be a very long
time. Sam, call another hackney-coach. Perker, my dear friend,
'I shall go with you, and see you safe there,' said Perker.
'Indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'I would rather go without any
other attendant than Sam. As soon as I get settled, I will write
and let you know, and I shall expect you immediately. Until then,
As Mr. Pickwick said this, he got into the coach which had by
this time arrived, followed by the tipstaff. Sam having stationed
himself on the box, it rolled away.
'A most extraordinary man that!' said Perker, as he stopped to
pull on his gloves.
'What a bankrupt he'd make, Sir,' observed Mr. Lowten, who
was standing near. 'How he would bother the commissioners!
He'd set 'em at defiance if they talked of committing him, Sir.'
The attorney did not appear very much delighted with his
clerk's professional estimate of Mr. Pickwick's character, for he
walked away without deigning any reply.
The hackney-coach jolted along Fleet Street, as hackney-
coaches usually do. The horses 'went better', the driver said,
when they had anything before them (they must have gone at
a most extraordinary pace when there was nothing), and so
the vehicle kept behind a cart; when the cart stopped, it stopped;
and when the cart went on again, it did the same. Mr. Pickwick
sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between
his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window.
Time performs wonders. By the powerful old gentleman's aid,
even a hackney-coach gets over half a mile of ground. They
stopped at length, and Mr. Pickwick alighted at the gate of the Fleet.
The tipstaff, just looking over his shoulder to see that his
charge was following close at his heels, preceded Mr. Pickwick
into the prison; turning to the left, after they had entered, they
passed through an open door into a lobby, from which a heavy
gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and which was
guarded by a stout turnkey with the key in his hand, led at once
into the interior of the prison.
Here they stopped, while the tipstaff delivered his papers; and
here Mr. Pickwick was apprised that he would remain, until he
had undergone the ceremony, known to the initiated as 'sitting
for your portrait.'
'Sitting for my portrait?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Having your likeness taken, sir,' replied the stout turnkey.
'We're capital hands at likenesses here. Take 'em in no time, and
always exact. Walk in, sir, and make yourself at home.'
Mr. Pickwick complied with the invitation, and sat himself
down; when Mr. Weller, who stationed himself at the back of the
chair, whispered that the sitting was merely another term for
undergoing an inspection by the different turnkeys, in order that
they might know prisoners from visitors.
'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'then I wish the artists would
come. This is rather a public place.'
'They von't be long, Sir, I des-say,' replied Sam. 'There's a
Dutch clock, sir.'
'So I see,' observed Mr. Pickwick.
'And a bird-cage, sir,' says Sam. 'Veels vithin veels, a prison in
a prison. Ain't it, Sir?'
As Mr. Weller made this philosophical remark, Mr. Pickwick
was aware that his sitting had commenced. The stout turnkey
having been relieved from the lock, sat down, and looked at him
carelessly, from time to time, while a long thin man who had
relieved him, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and planting
himself opposite, took a good long view of him. A third rather
surly-looking gentleman, who had apparently been disturbed at
his tea, for he was disposing of the last remnant of a crust and
butter when he came in, stationed himself close to Mr. Pickwick;
and, resting his hands on his hips, inspected him narrowly; while
two others mixed with the group, and studied his features with
most intent and thoughtful faces. Mr. Pickwick winced a good
deal under the operation, and appeared to sit very uneasily in his
chair; but he made no remark to anybody while it was being
performed, not even to Sam, who reclined upon the back of the
chair, reflecting, partly on the situation of his master, and partly
on the great satisfaction it would have afforded him to make a
fierce assault upon all the turnkeys there assembled, one after the
other, if it were lawful and peaceable so to do.
At length the likeness was completed, and Mr. Pickwick was
informed that he might now proceed into the prison.
'Where am I to sleep to-night?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Why, I don't rightly know about to-night,' replied the stout
turnkey. 'You'll be chummed on somebody to-morrow, and then
you'll be all snug and comfortable. The first night's generally
rather unsettled, but you'll be set all squares to-morrow.'
After some discussion, it was discovered that one of the turnkeys
had a bed to let, which Mr. Pickwick could have for that night.
He gladly agreed to hire it.
'If you'll come with me, I'll show it you at once,' said the man.
'It ain't a large 'un; but it's an out-and-outer to sleep in. This
They passed through the inner gate, and descended a short flight
of steps. The key was turned after them; and Mr. Pickwick found
himself, for the first time in his life, within the walls of a debtors'
WHAT BEFELL Mr. PICKWICK WHEN HE GOT INTO THE
FLEET; WHAT PRISONERS HE SAW THERE, AND HOW HE
PASSED THE NIGHT
Mr. Tom Roker, the gentleman who had accompanied Mr. Pickwick into
the prison, turned sharp round to the right when he got to the
bottom of the little flight of steps, and led the way, through an
iron gate which stood open, and up another short flight of steps,
into a long narrow gallery, dirty and low, paved with stone, and
very dimly lighted by a window at each remote end.
'This,' said the gentleman, thrusting his hands into his pockets,
and looking carelessly over his shoulder to Mr. Pickwick--'this
here is the hall flight.'
'Oh,' replied Mr. Pickwick, looking down a dark and filthy
staircase, which appeared to lead to a range of damp and gloomy
stone vaults, beneath the ground, 'and those, I suppose, are the
little cellars where the prisoners keep their small quantities of
coals. Unpleasant places to have to go down to; but very
convenient, I dare say.'
'Yes, I shouldn't wonder if they was convenient,' replied the
gentleman, 'seeing that a few people live there, pretty snug.
That's the Fair, that is.'
'My friend,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'you don't really mean to say
that human beings live down in those wretched dungeons?'
'Don't I?' replied Mr. Roker, with indignant astonishment;
'why shouldn't I?'
'Live!--live down there!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Live down there! Yes, and die down there, too, very often!'
replied Mr. Roker; 'and what of that? Who's got to say anything
agin it? Live down there! Yes, and a wery good place it is to live
in, ain't it?'
As Roker turned somewhat fiercely upon Mr. Pickwick in
saying this, and moreover muttered in an excited fashion certain
unpleasant invocations concerning his own eyes, limbs, and
circulating fluids, the latter gentleman deemed it advisable to
pursue the discourse no further. Mr. Roker then proceeded to
mount another staircase, as dirty as that which led to the place
which has just been the subject of discussion, in which ascent he
was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and Sam.
'There,' said Mr. Roker, pausing for breath when they reached
another gallery of the same dimensions as the one below, 'this is
the coffee-room flight; the one above's the third, and the one
above that's the top; and the room where you're a-going to sleep
to-night is the warden's room, and it's this way--come on.'
Having said all this in a breath, Mr. Roker mounted another flight
of stairs with Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller following at his heels.
These staircases received light from sundry windows placed at
some little distance above the floor, and looking into a gravelled
area bounded by a high brick wall, with iron CHEVAUX-DE-FRISE at
the top. This area, it appeared from Mr. Roker's statement, was
the racket-ground; and it further appeared, on the testimony
of the same gentleman, that there was a smaller area in that
portion of the prison which was nearest Farringdon Street,
denominated and called 'the Painted Ground,' from the fact of
its walls having once displayed the semblance of various men-
of-war in full sail, and other artistical effects achieved in
bygone times by some imprisoned draughtsman in his leisure hours.
Having communicated this piece of information, apparently
more for the purpose of discharging his bosom of an important
fact, than with any specific view of enlightening Mr. Pickwick,
the guide, having at length reached another gallery, led the way
into a small passage at the extreme end, opened a door, and
disclosed an apartment of an appearance by no means inviting,
containing eight or nine iron bedsteads.
'There,' said Mr. Roker, holding the door open, and looking
triumphantly round at Mr. Pickwick, 'there's a room!'
Mr. Pickwick's face, however, betokened such a very trifling
portion of satisfaction at the appearance of his lodging, that
Mr. Roker looked, for a reciprocity of feeling, into the countenance
of Samuel Weller, who, until now, had observed a dignified silence.
'There's a room, young man,' observed Mr. Roker.
'I see it,' replied Sam, with a placid nod of the head.
'You wouldn't think to find such a room as this in the
Farringdon Hotel, would you?' said Mr. Roker, with a
To this Mr. Weller replied with an easy and unstudied closing
of one eye; which might be considered to mean, either that he
would have thought it, or that he would not have thought it, or
that he had never thought anything at all about it, as the
observer's imagination suggested. Having executed this feat, and
reopened his eye, Mr. Weller proceeded to inquire which was the
individual bedstead that Mr. Roker had so flatteringly described
as an out-and-outer to sleep in.
'That's it,' replied Mr. Roker, pointing to a very rusty one in a
corner. 'It would make any one go to sleep, that bedstead would,
whether they wanted to or not.'
'I should think,' said Sam, eyeing the piece of furniture in
question with a look of excessive disgust--'I should think poppies
was nothing to it.'
'Nothing at all,' said Mr. Roker.
'And I s'pose,' said Sam, with a sidelong glance at his master,
as if to see whether there were any symptoms of his determination
being shaken by what passed, 'I s'pose the other gen'l'men as
sleeps here ARE gen'l'men.'
'Nothing but it,' said Mr. Roker. 'One of 'em takes his twelve
pints of ale a day, and never leaves off smoking even at his meals.'
'He must be a first-rater,' said Sam.
'A1,' replied Mr. Roker.
Nothing daunted, even by this intelligence, Mr. Pickwick
smilingly announced his determination to test the powers of the
narcotic bedstead for that night; and Mr. Roker, after informing
him that he could retire to rest at whatever hour he thought
proper, without any further notice or formality, walked off,
leaving him standing with Sam in the gallery.
It was getting dark; that is to say, a few gas jets were kindled
in this place which was never light, by way of compliment to the
evening, which had set in outside. As it was rather warm, some of
the tenants of the numerous little rooms which opened into the
gallery on either hand, had set their doors ajar. Mr. Pickwick
peeped into them as he passed along, with great curiosity and
interest. Here, four or five great hulking fellows, just visible
through a cloud of tobacco smoke, were engaged in noisy and
riotous conversation over half-emptied pots of beer, or playing
at all-fours with a very greasy pack of cards. In the adjoining
room, some solitary tenant might be seen poring, by the light of a
feeble tallow candle, over a bundle of soiled and tattered papers,
yellow with dust and dropping to pieces from age, writing, for the
hundredth time, some lengthened statement of his grievances, for
the perusal of some great man whose eyes it would never reach,
or whose heart it would never touch. In a third, a man, with his
wife and a whole crowd of children, might be seen making up a
scanty bed on the ground, or upon a few chairs, for the younger
ones to pass the night in. And in a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth,
and a seventh, the noise, and the beer, and the tobacco smoke, and
the cards, all came over again in greater force than before.
In the galleries themselves, and more especially on the stair-
cases, there lingered a great number of people, who came there,
some because their rooms were empty and lonesome, others
because their rooms were full and hot; the greater part because
they were restless and uncomfortable, and not possessed of the
secret of exactly knowing what to do with themselves. There
were many classes of people here, from the labouring man in his
fustian jacket, to the broken-down spendthrift in his shawl
dressing-gown, most appropriately out at elbows; but there was
the same air about them all--a kind of listless, jail-bird, careless
swagger, a vagabondish who's-afraid sort of bearing, which is
wholly indescribable in words, but which any man can understand
in one moment if he wish, by setting foot in the nearest
debtors' prison, and looking at the very first group of people he
sees there, with the same interest as Mr. Pickwick did.
'It strikes me, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, leaning over the iron
rail at the stair-head-'it strikes me, Sam, that imprisonment for
debt is scarcely any punishment at all.'
'Think not, sir?' inquired Mr. Weller.
'You see how these fellows drink, and smoke, and roar,'
replied Mr. Pickwick. 'It's quite impossible that they can mind
'Ah, that's just the wery thing, Sir,' rejoined Sam, 'they don't
mind it; it's a reg'lar holiday to them--all porter and skittles.
It's the t'other vuns as gets done over vith this sort o' thing;
them down-hearted fellers as can't svig avay at the beer, nor play
at skittles neither; them as vould pay if they could, and gets low
by being boxed up. I'll tell you wot it is, sir; them as is always
a-idlin' in public-houses it don't damage at all, and them as is
alvays a-workin' wen they can, it damages too much. "It's
unekal," as my father used to say wen his grog worn't made half-
and-half: "it's unekal, and that's the fault on it."'
'I think you're right, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, after a few
moments' reflection, 'quite right.'
'P'raps, now and then, there's some honest people as likes it,'
observed Mr. Weller, in a ruminative tone, 'but I never heerd o'
one as I can call to mind, 'cept the little dirty-faced man in the
brown coat; and that was force of habit.'
'And who was he?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, that's just the wery point as nobody never know'd,'
'But what did he do?'
'Wy, he did wot many men as has been much better know'd
has done in their time, Sir,' replied Sam, 'he run a match agin the
constable, and vun it.'
'In other words, I suppose,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'he got into debt.'
'Just that, Sir,' replied Sam, 'and in course o' time he come
here in consekens. It warn't much--execution for nine pound
nothin', multiplied by five for costs; but hows'ever here he
stopped for seventeen year. If he got any wrinkles in his face,
they were stopped up vith the dirt, for both the dirty face and the
brown coat wos just the same at the end o' that time as they wos
at the beginnin'. He wos a wery peaceful, inoffendin' little
creetur, and wos alvays a-bustlin' about for somebody, or playin'
rackets and never vinnin'; till at last the turnkeys they got quite
fond on him, and he wos in the lodge ev'ry night, a-chattering
vith 'em, and tellin' stories, and all that 'ere. Vun night he wos in
there as usual, along vith a wery old friend of his, as wos on the
lock, ven he says all of a sudden, "I ain't seen the market outside,
Bill," he says (Fleet Market wos there at that time)--"I ain't
seen the market outside, Bill," he says, "for seventeen year."
"I know you ain't," says the turnkey, smoking his pipe. "I
should like to see it for a minit, Bill," he says. "Wery probable,"
says the turnkey, smoking his pipe wery fierce, and making
believe he warn't up to wot the little man wanted. "Bill," says
the little man, more abrupt than afore, "I've got the fancy in my
head. Let me see the public streets once more afore I die; and if
I ain't struck with apoplexy, I'll be back in five minits by the
clock." "And wot 'ud become o' me if you WOS struck with
apoplexy?" said the turnkey. "Wy," says the little creetur,
"whoever found me, 'ud bring me home, for I've got my card in
my pocket, Bill," he says, "No. 20, Coffee-room Flight": and
that wos true, sure enough, for wen he wanted to make the
acquaintance of any new-comer, he used to pull out a little limp
card vith them words on it and nothin' else; in consideration of
vich, he vos alvays called Number Tventy. The turnkey takes a
fixed look at him, and at last he says in a solemn manner,
"Tventy," he says, "I'll trust you; you Won't get your old friend
into trouble." "No, my boy; I hope I've somethin' better behind
here," says the little man; and as he said it he hit his little vesket
wery hard, and then a tear started out o' each eye, which wos
wery extraordinary, for it wos supposed as water never touched
his face. He shook the turnkey by the hand; out he vent--'
'And never came back again,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Wrong for vunce, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'for back he come,
two minits afore the time, a-bilin' with rage, sayin' how he'd
been nearly run over by a hackney-coach that he warn't used to
it; and he was blowed if he wouldn't write to the lord mayor.
They got him pacified at last; and for five years arter that, he
never even so much as peeped out o' the lodge gate.'
'At the expiration of that time he died, I suppose,' said
'No, he didn't, Sir,' replied Sam. 'He got a curiosity to go and
taste the beer at a new public-house over the way, and it wos such
a wery nice parlour, that he took it into his head to go there
every night, which he did for a long time, always comin' back
reg'lar about a quarter of an hour afore the gate shut, which was
all wery snug and comfortable. At last he began to get so precious
jolly, that he used to forget how the time vent, or care nothin' at
all about it, and he went on gettin' later and later, till vun night
his old friend wos just a-shuttin' the gate--had turned the key in
fact--wen he come up. "Hold hard, Bill," he says. "Wot, ain't
you come home yet, Tventy?' says the turnkey, "I thought you
wos in, long ago." "No, I wasn't," says the little man, with a
smile. "Well, then, I'll tell you wot it is, my friend," says the
turnkey, openin' the gate wery slow and sulky, "it's my 'pinion
as you've got into bad company o' late, which I'm wery sorry to
see. Now, I don't wish to do nothing harsh," he says, "but if you
can't confine yourself to steady circles, and find your vay back at
reg'lar hours, as sure as you're a-standin' there, I'll shut you out
altogether!" The little man was seized vith a wiolent fit o'
tremblin', and never vent outside the prison walls artervards!'
As Sam concluded, Mr. Pickwick slowly retraced his steps
downstairs. After a few thoughtful turns in the Painted Ground,
which, as it was now dark, was nearly deserted, he intimated to
Mr. Weller that he thought it high time for him to withdraw for
the night; requesting him to seek a bed in some adjacent public-
house, and return early in the morning, to make arrangements
for the removal of his master's wardrobe from the George and
Vulture. This request Mr. Samuel Weller prepared to obey, with
as good a grace as he could assume, but with a very considerable
show of reluctance nevertheless. He even went so far as to essay
sundry ineffectual hints regarding the expediency of stretching
himself on the gravel for that night; but finding Mr. Pickwick
obstinately deaf to any such suggestions, finally withdrew.
There is no disguising the fact that Mr. Pickwick felt very
low-spirited and uncomfortable--not for lack of society, for the
prison was very full, and a bottle of wine would at once have
purchased the utmost good-fellowship of a few choice spirits,
without any more formal ceremony of introduction; but he was
alone in the coarse, vulgar crowd, and felt the depression of
spirits and sinking of heart, naturally consequent on the reflection
that he was cooped and caged up, without a prospect of liberation.
As to the idea of releasing himself by ministering to the
sharpness of Dodson & Fogg, it never for an instant entered his thoughts.
In this frame of mind he turned again into the coffee-room
gallery, and walked slowly to and fro. The place was intolerably
dirty, and the smell of tobacco smoke perfectly suffocating.
There was a perpetual slamming and banging of doors as the
people went in and out; and the noise of their voices and footsteps
echoed and re-echoed through the passages constantly. A young
woman, with a child in her arms, who seemed scarcely able to
crawl, from emaciation and misery, was walking up and down the
passage in conversation with her husband, who had no other
place to see her in. As they passed Mr. Pickwick, he could hear
the female sob bitterly; and once she burst into such a passion of
grief, that she was compelled to lean against the wall for support,
while the man took the child in his arms, and tried to soothe her.
Mr. Pickwick's heart was really too full to bear it, and he went
upstairs to bed.
Now, although the warder's room was a very uncomfortable
one (being, in every point of decoration and convenience, several
hundred degrees inferior to the common infirmary of a county
jail), it had at present the merit of being wholly deserted save by
Mr. Pickwick himself. So, he sat down at the foot of his little iron
bedstead, and began to wonder how much a year the warder
made out of the dirty room. Having satisfied himself, by mathematical
calculation, that the apartment was about equal in
annual value to the freehold of a small street in the suburbs of
London, he took to wondering what possible temptation could
have induced a dingy-looking fly that was crawling over his
pantaloons, to come into a close prison, when he had the choice
of so many airy situations--a course of meditation which led him to
the irresistible conclusion that the insect was insane. After
settling this point, he began to be conscious that he was getting
sleepy; whereupon he took his nightcap out of the pocket in
which he had had the precaution to stow it in the morning, and,
leisurely undressing himself, got into bed and fell asleep.
'Bravo! Heel over toe--cut and shuffle--pay away at it,
Zephyr! I'm smothered if the opera house isn't your proper
hemisphere. Keep it up! Hooray!' These expressions, delivered
in a most boisterous tone, and accompanied with loud peals of
laughter, roused Mr. Pickwick from one of those sound slumbers
which, lasting in reality some half-hour, seem to the sleeper to
have been protracted for three weeks or a month.
The voice had no sooner ceased than the room was shaken
with such violence that the windows rattled in their frames, and
the bedsteads trembled again. Mr. Pickwick started up, and
remained for some minutes fixed in mute astonishment at the
scene before him.
Back to Full Books