The Pickwick Papers
Part 17 out of 20
vith a cheerful laugh, ven he heerd the robin-redbreast a-singin'
round the corner.'
'Who is it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Will you see her, Sir?' asked Mr. Weller, holding the door in
his hand as if he had some curious live animal on the other side.
'I suppose I must,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at Perker.
'Well then, all in to begin!' cried Sam. 'Sound the gong, draw
up the curtain, and enter the two conspiraytors.'
As Sam Weller spoke, he threw the door open, and there
rushed tumultuously into the room, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle,
leading after him by the hand, the identical young lady who at
Dingley Dell had worn the boots with the fur round the tops, and
who, now a very pleasing compound of blushes and confusion,
and lilac silk, and a smart bonnet, and a rich lace veil, looked
prettier than ever.
'Miss Arabella Allen!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, rising from his chair.
'No,' replied Mr. Winkle, dropping on his knees. 'Mrs. Winkle.
Pardon, my dear friend, pardon!'
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses,
and perhaps would not have done so, but for the corroborative
testimony afforded by the smiling countenance of Perker, and the
bodily presence, in the background, of Sam and the pretty
housemaid; who appeared to contemplate the proceedings with
the liveliest satisfaction.
'Oh, Mr. Pickwick!' said Arabella, in a low voice, as if alarmed
at the silence. 'Can you forgive my imprudence?'
Mr. Pickwick returned no verbal response to this appeal; but
he took off his spectacles in great haste, and seizing both the
young lady's hands in his, kissed her a great number of times--
perhaps a greater number than was absolutely necessary--and
then, still retaining one of her hands, told Mr. Winkle he was an
audacious young dog, and bade him get up. This, Mr. Winkle,
who had been for some seconds scratching his nose with the brim
of his hat, in a penitent manner, did; whereupon Mr. Pickwick
slapped him on the back several times, and then shook hands
heartily with Perker, who, not to be behind-hand in the compliments
of the occasion, saluted both the bride and the pretty
housemaid with right good-will, and, having wrung Mr, Winkle's
hand most cordially, wound up his demonstrations of joy by
taking snuff enough to set any half-dozen men with ordinarily-
constructed noses, a-sneezing for life.
'Why, my dear girl,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'how has all this come
about? Come! Sit down, and let me hear it all. How well she
looks, doesn't she, Perker?' added Mr. Pickwick, surveying
Arabella's face with a look of as much pride and exultation, as if
she had been his daughter.
'Delightful, my dear Sir,' replied the little man. 'If I were not a
married man myself, I should be disposed to envy you, you dog.'
Thus expressing himself, the little lawyer gave Mr. Winkle a poke
in the chest, which that gentleman reciprocated; after which they
both laughed very loudly, but not so loudly as Mr. Samuel
Weller, who had just relieved his feelings by kissing the pretty
housemaid under cover of the cupboard door.
'I can never be grateful enough to you, Sam, I am sure,' said
Arabella, with the sweetest smile imaginable. 'I shall not forget
your exertions in the garden at Clifton.'
'Don't say nothin' wotever about it, ma'am,' replied Sam. 'I
only assisted natur, ma'am; as the doctor said to the boy's
mother, after he'd bled him to death.'
'Mary, my dear, sit down,' said Mr. Pickwick, cutting short
these compliments. 'Now then; how long have you been married, eh?'
Arabella looked bashfully at her lord and master, who
replied, 'Only three days.'
'Only three days, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why, what have you
been doing these three months?'
'Ah, to be sure!' interposed Perker; 'come, account for this
idleness. You see Mr. Pickwick's only astonishment is, that it
wasn't all over, months ago.'
'Why the fact is,' replied Mr. Winkle, looking at his blushing
young wife, 'that I could not persuade Bella to run away, for a
long time. And when I had persuaded her, it was a long time
more before we could find an opportunity. Mary had to give a
month's warning, too, before she could leave her place next door,
and we couldn't possibly have done it without her assistance.'
'Upon my word,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, who by this time
had resumed his spectacles, and was looking from Arabella to
Winkle, and from Winkle to Arabella, with as much delight
depicted in his countenance as warmheartedness and kindly
feeling can communicate to the human face--'upon my word!
you seem to have been very systematic in your proceedings. And
is your brother acquainted with all this, my dear?'
'Oh, no, no,' replied Arabella, changing colour. 'Dear Mr.
Pickwick, he must only know it from you--from your lips alone.
He is so violent, so prejudiced, and has been so--so anxious in
behalf of his friend, Mr, Sawyer,' added Arabella, looking down,
'that I fear the consequences dreadfully.'
'Ah, to be sure,' said Perker gravely. 'You must take this
matter in hand for them, my dear sir. These young men will
respect you, when they would listen to nobody else. You must
prevent mischief, my dear Sir. Hot blood, hot blood.' And the
little man took a warning pinch, and shook his head doubtfully.
'You forget, my love,' said Mr. Pickwick gently, 'you forget
that I am a prisoner.'
'No, indeed I do not, my dear Sir,' replied Arabella. 'I never
have forgotten it. I have never ceased to think how great your
sufferings must have been in this shocking place. But I hoped
that what no consideration for yourself would induce you to do,
a regard to our happiness might. If my brother hears of this, first,
from you, I feel certain we shall be reconciled. He is my only
relation in the world, Mr. Pickwick, and unless you plead for me,
I fear I have lost even him. I have done wrong, very, very wrong,
I know.'Here poor Arabella hid her face in her handkerchief, and
Mr. Pickwick's nature was a good deal worked upon, by these
same tears; but when Mrs. Winkle, drying her eyes, took to
coaxing and entreating in the sweetest tones of a very sweet voice,
he became particularly restless, and evidently undecided how to
act, as was evinced by sundry nervous rubbings of his spectacle-
glasses, nose, tights, head, and gaiters.
Taking advantage of these symptoms of indecision, Mr. Perker
(to whom, it appeared, the young couple had driven straight that
morning) urged with legal point and shrewdness that Mr. Winkle,
senior, was still unacquainted with the important rise in life's
flight of steps which his son had taken; that the future expectations
of the said son depended entirely upon the said Winkle,
senior, continuing to regard him with undiminished feelings of
affection and attachment, which it was very unlikely he would, if
this great event were long kept a secret from him; that Mr. Pickwick,
repairing to Bristol to seek Mr. Allen, might, with equal
reason, repair to Birmingham to seek Mr. Winkle, senior; lastly,
that Mr. Winkle, senior, had good right and title to consider
Mr. Pickwick as in some degree the guardian and adviser of his
son, and that it consequently behoved that gentleman, and was
indeed due to his personal character, to acquaint the aforesaid
Winkle, senior, personally, and by word of mouth, with the
whole circumstances of the case, and with the share he had taken
in the transaction.
Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass arrived, most opportunely, in
this stage of the pleadings, and as it was necessary to explain to
them all that had occurred, together with the various reasons pro
and con, the whole of the arguments were gone over again, after
which everybody urged every argument in his own way, and at
his own length. And, at last, Mr. Pickwick, fairly argued and
remonstrated out of all his resolutions, and being in imminent
danger of being argued and remonstrated out of his wits, caught
Arabella in his arms, and declaring that she was a very amiable
creature, and that he didn't know how it was, but he had always
been very fond of her from the first, said he could never find it in
his heart to stand in the way of young people's happiness, and
they might do with him as they pleased.
Mr. Weller's first act, on hearing this concession, was to
despatch Job Trotter to the illustrious Mr. Pell, with an authority
to deliver to the bearer the formal discharge which his prudent
parent had had the foresight to leave in the hands of that learned
gentleman, in case it should be, at any time, required on an
emergency; his next proceeding was, to invest his whole stock of
ready-money in the purchase of five-and-twenty gallons of mild
porter, which he himself dispensed on the racket-ground to
everybody who would partake of it; this done, he hurra'd in
divers parts of the building until he lost his voice, and then
quietly relapsed into his usual collected and philosophical condition.
At three o'clock that afternoon, Mr. Pickwick took a last look
at his little room, and made his way, as well as he could, through
the throng of debtors who pressed eagerly forward to shake him
by the hand, until he reached the lodge steps. He turned here, to
look about him, and his eye lightened as he did so. In all the
crowd of wan, emaciated faces, he saw not one which was not
happier for his sympathy and charity.
'Perker,' said Mr. Pickwick, beckoning one young man
towards him, 'this is Mr. Jingle, whom I spoke to you about.'
'Very good, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, looking hard at
Jingle. 'You will see me again, young man, to-morrow. I hope
you may live to remember and feel deeply, what I shall have to
Jingle bowed respectfully, trembled very much as he took
Mr. Pickwick's proffered hand, and withdrew.
'Job you know, I think?' said Mr. Pickwick, presenting that
'I know the rascal,' replied Perker good-humouredly. 'See after
your friend, and be in the way to-morrow at one. Do you hear?
Now, is there anything more?'
'Nothing,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'You have delivered the
little parcel I gave you for your old landlord, Sam?'
'I have, Sir,' replied Sam. 'He bust out a-cryin', Sir, and said
you wos wery gen'rous and thoughtful, and he only wished you
could have him innockilated for a gallopin' consumption, for his
old friend as had lived here so long wos dead, and he'd noweres
to look for another.'
'Poor fellow, poor fellow!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'God bless you,
As Mr. Pickwick uttered this adieu, the crowd raised a loud
shout. Many among them were pressing forward to shake him
by the hand again, when he drew his arm through Perker's, and
hurried from the prison, far more sad and melancholy, for the
moment, than when he had first entered it. Alas! how many sad
and unhappy beings had he left behind!
A happy evening was that for at least one party in the George
and Vulture; and light and cheerful were two of the hearts that
emerged from its hospitable door next morning. The owners
thereof were Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, the former of whom
was speedily deposited inside a comfortable post-coach, with a
little dickey behind, in which the latter mounted with great agility.
'Sir,' called out Mr. Weller to his master.
'Well, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, thrusting his head out of
'I wish them horses had been three months and better in the
'Why, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, Sir,' exclaimed Mr. Weller, rubbing his hands, 'how they
would go if they had been!'
RELATES HOW Mr. PICKWICK, WITH THE ASSISTANCE
OF SAMUEL WELLER, ESSAYED TO SOFTEN THE HEART
OF Mr. BENJAMIN ALLEN, AND TO MOLLIFY THE WRATH
OF Mr. ROBERT SAWYER
Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer sat together in the little
surgery behind the shop, discussing minced veal and future
prospects, when the discourse, not unnaturally, turned upon
the practice acquired by Bob the aforesaid, and his present chances
of deriving a competent independence from the honourable
profession to which he had devoted himself.
'Which, I think,' observed Mr. Bob Sawyer, pursuing the
thread of the subject--'which, I think, Ben, are rather dubious.'
'What's rather dubious?' inquired Mr. Ben Allen, at the same
time sharpening his intellect with a draught of beer. 'What's dubious?'
'Why, the chances,' responded Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'I forgot,' said Mr. Ben Allen. 'The beer has reminded me that
I forgot, Bob--yes; they ARE dubious.'
'It's wonderful how the poor people patronise me,' said Mr.
Bob Sawyer reflectively. 'They knock me up, at all hours of the
night; they take medicine to an extent which I should have
conceived impossible; they put on blisters and leeches with a
perseverance worthy of a better cause; they make additions to
their families, in a manner which is quite awful. Six of those
last-named little promissory notes, all due on the same day, Ben,
and all intrusted to me!'
'It's very gratifying, isn't it?' said Mr. Ben Allen, holding his
plate for some more minced veal.
'Oh, very,' replied Bob; 'only not quite so much so as the
confidence of patients with a shilling or two to spare would be.
This business was capitally described in the advertisement, Ben.
It is a practice, a very extensive practice--and that's all.'
'Bob,' said Mr. Ben Allen, laying down his knife and fork, and
fixing his eyes on the visage of his friend, 'Bob, I'll tell you
what it is.'
'What is it?' inquired Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'You must make yourself, with as little delay as possible,
master of Arabella's one thousand pounds.'
'Three per cent. consolidated bank annuities, now standing in
her name in the book or books of the governor and company of
the Bank of England,' added Bob Sawyer, in legal phraseology.
'Exactly so,' said Ben. 'She has it when she comes of age, or
marries. She wants a year of coming of age, and if you plucked
up a spirit she needn't want a month of being married.'
'She's a very charming and delightful creature,' quoth Mr.
Robert Sawyer, in reply; 'and has only one fault that I know of,
Ben. It happens, unfortunately, that that single blemish is a want
of taste. She don't like me.'
'It's my opinion that she don't know what she does like,' said
Mr. Ben Allen contemptuously.
'Perhaps not,' remarked Mr. Bob Sawyer. 'But it's my opinion
that she does know what she doesn't like, and that's of more importance.'
'I wish,' said Mr. Ben Allen, setting his teeth together, and
speaking more like a savage warrior who fed on raw wolf's flesh
which he carved with his fingers, than a peaceable young gentleman
who ate minced veal with a knife and fork--'I wish I knew
whether any rascal really has been tampering with her, and
attempting to engage her affections. I think I should assassinate
'I'd put a bullet in him, if I found him out,' said Mr. Sawyer,
stopping in the course of a long draught of beer, and looking
malignantly out of the porter pot. 'If that didn't do his business,
I'd extract it afterwards, and kill him that way.'
Mr. Benjamin Allen gazed abstractedly on his friend for some
minutes in silence, and then said--
'You have never proposed to her, point-blank, Bob?'
'No. Because I saw it would be of no use,' replied Mr. Robert
'You shall do it, before you are twenty-four hours older,'
retorted Ben, with desperate calmness. 'She shall have you, or I'll
know the reason why. I'll exert my authority.'
'Well,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, 'we shall see.'
'We shall see, my friend,' replied Mr. Ben Allen fiercely. He
paused for a few seconds, and added in a voice broken by
emotion, 'You have loved her from a child, my friend. You loved
her when we were boys at school together, and, even then, she
was wayward and slighted your young feelings. Do you recollect,
with all the eagerness of a child's love, one day pressing upon her
acceptance, two small caraway-seed biscuits and one sweet
apple, neatly folded into a circular parcel with the leaf of a
'I do,' replied Bob Sawyer.
'She slighted that, I think?' said Ben Allen.
'She did,' rejoined Bob. 'She said I had kept the parcel so long
in the pockets of my corduroys, that the apple was unpleasantly warm.'
'I remember,' said Mr. Allen gloomily. 'Upon which we ate it
ourselves, in alternate bites.'
Bob Sawyer intimated his recollection of the circumstance last
alluded to, by a melancholy frown; and the two friends remained
for some time absorbed, each in his own meditations.
While these observations were being exchanged between Mr.
Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen; and while the boy in the
gray livery, marvelling at the unwonted prolongation of the
dinner, cast an anxious look, from time to time, towards the
glass door, distracted by inward misgivings regarding the amount
of minced veal which would be ultimately reserved for his
individual cravings; there rolled soberly on through the streets of
Bristol, a private fly, painted of a sad green colour, drawn by a
chubby sort of brown horse, and driven by a surly-looking man
with his legs dressed like the legs of a groom, and his body
attired in the coat of a coachman. Such appearances are common
to many vehicles belonging to, and maintained by, old ladies of
economic habits; and in this vehicle sat an old lady who was its
mistress and proprietor.
'Martin!' said the old lady, calling to the surly man, out of the
'Well?' said the surly man, touching his hat to the old lady.
'Mr. Sawyer's,' said the old lady.
'I was going there,' said the surly man.
The old lady nodded the satisfaction which this proof of the
surly man's foresight imparted to her feelings; and the surly man
giving a smart lash to the chubby horse, they all repaired to
Mr. Bob Sawyer's together.
'Martin!' said the old lady, when the fly stopped at the door of
Mr. Robert Sawyer, late Nockemorf.
'Well?' said Martin.
'Ask the lad to step out, and mind the horse.'
'I'm going to mind the horse myself,' said Martin, laying his
whip on the roof of the fly.
'I can't permit it, on any account,' said the old lady; 'your
testimony will be very important, and I must take you into the
house with me. You must not stir from my side during the whole
interview. Do you hear?'
'I hear,' replied Martin.
'Well; what are you stopping for?'
'Nothing,' replied Martin. So saying, the surly man leisurely
descended from the wheel, on which he had been poising himself
on the tops of the toes of his right foot, and having summoned
the boy in the gray livery, opened the coach door, flung down the
steps, and thrusting in a hand enveloped in a dark wash-leather
glove, pulled out the old lady with as much unconcern in his
manner as if she were a bandbox.
'Dear me!' exclaimed the old lady. 'I am so flurried, now I have
got here, Martin, that I'm all in a tremble.'
Mr. Martin coughed behind the dark wash-leather gloves, but
expressed no sympathy; so the old lady, composing herself,
trotted up Mr. Bob Sawyer's steps, and Mr. Martin followed.
Immediately on the old lady's entering the shop, Mr. Benjamin
Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been putting the spirits-and-
water out of sight, and upsetting nauseous drugs to take off the
smell of the tobacco smoke, issued hastily forth in a transport of
pleasure and affection.
'My dear aunt,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen, 'how kind of you to
look in upon us! Mr. Sawyer, aunt; my friend Mr. Bob Sawyer
whom I have spoken to you about, regarding--you know, aunt.'
And here Mr. Ben Allen, who was not at the moment extraordinarily
sober, added the word 'Arabella,' in what was meant to be
a whisper, but which was an especially audible and distinct
tone of speech which nobody could avoid hearing, if anybody
were so disposed.
'My dear Benjamin,' said the old lady, struggling with a great
shortness of breath, and trembling from head to foot, 'don't be
alarmed, my dear, but I think I had better speak to Mr. Sawyer,
alone, for a moment. Only for one moment.'
'Bob,' said Mr. Allen, 'will you take my aunt into the surgery?'
'Certainly,' responded Bob, in a most professional voice. 'Step
this way, my dear ma'am. Don't be frightened, ma'am. We shall
be able to set you to rights in a very short time, I have no doubt,
ma'am. Here, my dear ma'am. Now then!' With this, Mr. Bob
Sawyer having handed the old lady to a chair, shut the door,
drew another chair close to her, and waited to hear detailed the
symptoms of some disorder from which he saw in perspective a
long train of profits and advantages.
The first thing the old lady did, was to shake her head a great
many times, and began to cry.
'Nervous,' said Bob Sawyer complacently. 'Camphor-julep and
water three times a day, and composing draught at night.'
'I don't know how to begin, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady. 'It
is so very painful and distressing.'
'You need not begin, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bob Sawyer. 'I can
anticipate all you would say. The head is in fault.'
'I should be very sorry to think it was the heart,' said the old
lady, with a slight groan.
'Not the slightest danger of that, ma'am,' replied Bob Sawyer.
'The stomach is the primary cause.'
'Mr. Sawyer!' exclaimed the old lady, starting.
'Not the least doubt of it, ma'am,' rejoined Bob, looking
wondrous wise. 'Medicine, in time, my dear ma'am, would have
prevented it all.'
'Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady, more flurried than before, 'this
conduct is either great impertinence to one in my situation, Sir,
or it arises from your not understanding the object of my visit.
If it had been in the power of medicine, or any foresight I could
have used, to prevent what has occurred, I should certainly have
done so. I had better see my nephew at once,' said the old lady,
twirling her reticule indignantly, and rising as she spoke.
'Stop a moment, ma'am,' said Bob Sawyer; 'I'm afraid I have
not understood you. What IS the matter, ma'am?'
'My niece, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady: 'your friend's sister.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Bob, all impatience; for the old lady,
although much agitated, spoke with the most tantalising deliberation,
as old ladies often do. 'Yes, ma'am.'
'Left my home, Mr. Sawyer, three days ago, on a pretended
visit to my sister, another aunt of hers, who keeps the large
boarding-school, just beyond the third mile-stone, where there is
a very large laburnum-tree and an oak gate,' said the old lady,
stopping in this place to dry her eyes.
'Oh, devil take the laburnum-tree, ma'am!' said Bob, quite
forgetting his professional dignity in his anxiety. 'Get on a little
faster; put a little more steam on, ma'am, pray.'
'This morning,' said the old lady slowly--'this morning, she--'
'She came back, ma'am, I suppose,' said Bob, with great
animation. 'Did she come back?'
'No, she did not; she wrote,' replied the old lady.
'What did she say?' inquired Bob eagerly.
'She said, Mr. Sawyer,' replied the old lady--'and it is this I
want to prepare Benjamin's mind for, gently and by degrees; she
said that she was-- I have got the letter in my pocket, Mr.
Sawyer, but my glasses are in the carriage, and I should only
waste your time if I attempted to point out the passage to you,
without them; she said, in short, Mr. Sawyer, that she was married.'
'What!' said, or rather shouted, Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'Married,' repeated the old lady.
Mr. Bob Sawyer stopped to hear no more; but darting from
the surgery into the outer shop, cried in a stentorian voice,
'Ben, my boy, she's bolted!'
Mr. Ben Allen, who had been slumbering behind the counter,
with his head half a foot or so below his knees, no sooner heard
this appalling communication, than he made a precipitate rush
at Mr. Martin, and, twisting his hand in the neck-cloth of that
taciturn servitor, expressed an obliging intention of choking him
where he stood. This intention, with a promptitude often the
effect of desperation, he at once commenced carrying into
execution, with much vigour and surgical skill.
Mr. Martin, who was a man of few words and possessed but
little power of eloquence or persuasion, submitted to this
operation with a very calm and agreeable expression of countenance,
for some seconds; finding, however, that it threatened
speedily to lead to a result which would place it beyond his power
to claim any wages, board or otherwise, in all time to come, he
muttered an inarticulate remonstrance and felled Mr. Benjamin
Allen to the ground. As that gentleman had his hands entangled
in his cravat, he had no alternative but to follow him to the floor.
There they both lay struggling, when the shop door opened, and
the party was increased by the arrival of two most unexpected
visitors, to wit, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Samuel Weller.
The impression at once produced on Mr. Weller's mind by
what he saw, was, that Mr. Martin was hired by the establishment
of Sawyer, late Nockemorf, to take strong medicine, or to go into
fits and be experimentalised upon, or to swallow poison now and
then with the view of testing the efficacy of some new antidotes,
or to do something or other to promote the great science of
medicine, and gratify the ardent spirit of inquiry burning in the
bosoms of its two young professors. So, without presuming to
interfere, Sam stood perfectly still, and looked on, as if he were
mightily interested in the result of the then pending experiment.
Not so, Mr. Pickwick. He at once threw himself on the astonished
combatants, with his accustomed energy, and loudly called upon
the bystanders to interpose.
This roused Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been hitherto quite
paralysed by the frenzy of his companion. With that gentleman's
assistance, Mr. Pickwick raised Ben Allen to his feet. Mr. Martin
finding himself alone on the floor, got up, and looked about him.
'Mr. Allen,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what is the matter, Sir?'
'Never mind, Sir!' replied Mr. Allen, with haughty defiance.
'What is it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, looking at Bob Sawyer.
'Is he unwell?'
Before Bob could reply, Mr. Ben Allen seized Mr. Pickwick by
the hand, and murmured, in sorrowful accents, 'My sister, my
dear Sir; my sister.'
'Oh, is that all!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'We shall easily arrange
that matter, I hope. Your sister is safe and well, and I am here,
my dear Sir, to--'
'Sorry to do anythin' as may cause an interruption to such
wery pleasant proceedin's, as the king said wen he dissolved the
parliament,' interposed Mr. Weller, who had been peeping
through the glass door; 'but there's another experiment here, sir.
Here's a wenerable old lady a--lyin' on the carpet waitin' for
dissection, or galwinism, or some other rewivin' and scientific
'I forgot,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen. 'It is my aunt.'
'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Poor lady! Gently Sam, gently.'
'Strange sitivation for one o' the family,' observed Sam Weller,
hoisting the aunt into a chair. 'Now depitty sawbones, bring out
The latter observation was addressed to the boy in gray, who,
having handed over the fly to the care of the street-keeper, had
come back to see what all the noise was about. Between the boy
in gray, and Mr. Bob Sawyer, and Mr. Benjamin Allen (who
having frightened his aunt into a fainting fit, was affectionately
solicitous for her recovery) the old lady was at length restored to
consciousness; then Mr. Ben Allen, turning with a puzzled
countenance to Mr. Pickwick, asked him what he was about to
say, when he had been so alarmingly interrupted.
'We are all friends here, I presume?' said Mr. Pickwick,
clearing his voice, and looking towards the man of few words
with the surly countenance, who drove the fly with the chubby horse.
This reminded Mr. Bob Sawyer that the boy in gray was looking
on, with eyes wide open, and greedy ears. The incipient
chemist having been lifted up by his coat collar, and dropped
outside the door, Bob Sawyer assured Mr. Pickwick that he
might speak without reserve.
'Your sister, my dear Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, turning to
Benjamin Allen, 'is in London; well and happy.'
'Her happiness is no object to me, sir,' said Benjamin Allen,
with a flourish of the hand.
'Her husband IS an object to ME, Sir,' said Bob Sawyer. 'He
shall be an object to me, sir, at twelve paces, and a pretty object
I'll make of him, sir--a mean-spirited scoundrel!' This, as it
stood, was a very pretty denunciation, and magnanimous withal;
but Mr. Bob Sawyer rather weakened its effect, by winding up
with some general observations concerning the punching of
heads and knocking out of eyes, which were commonplace by comparison.
'Stay, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'before you apply those epithets
to the gentleman in question, consider, dispassionately, the
extent of his fault, and above all remember that he is a friend of mine.'
'What!' said Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'His name!' cried Ben Allen. 'His name!'
'Mr. Nathaniel Winkle,' said Mr, Pickwick.
Mr. Benjamin Allen deliberately crushed his spectacles beneath
the heel of his boot, and having picked up the pieces, and put
them into three separate pockets, folded his arms, bit his lips, and
looked in a threatening manner at the bland features of Mr. Pickwick.
'Then it's you, is it, Sir, who have encouraged and brought
about this match?' inquired Mr. Benjamin Allen at length.
'And it's this gentleman's servant, I suppose,' interrupted the
old lady, 'who has been skulking about my house, and
endeavouring to entrap my servants to conspire against their
'Well?' said the surly man, coming forward.
'Is that the young man you saw in the lane, whom you told me
about, this morning?'
Mr. Martin, who, as it has already appeared, was a man of few
words, looked at Sam Weller, nodded his head, and growled
forth, 'That's the man.' Mr. Weller, who was never proud, gave
a smile of friendly recognition as his eyes encountered those of
the surly groom, and admitted in courteous terms, that he had
'knowed him afore.'
'And this is the faithful creature,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen,
'whom I had nearly suffocated!--Mr. Pickwick, how dare you
allow your fellow to be employed in the abduction of my sister?
I demand that you explain this matter, sir.'
'Explain it, sir!' cried Bob Sawyer fiercely.
'It's a conspiracy,' said Ben Allen.
'A regular plant,' added Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'A disgraceful imposition,' observed the old lady.
'Nothing but a do,' remarked Martin.
'Pray hear me,' urged Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Ben Allen fell into
a chair that patients were bled in, and gave way to his pocket-
handkerchief. 'I have rendered no assistance in this matter,
beyond being present at one interview between the young people
which I could not prevent, and from which I conceived my
presence would remove any slight colouring of impropriety that
it might otherwise have had; this is the whole share I have had in
the transaction, and I had no suspicion that an immediate
marriage was even contemplated. Though, mind,' added Mr.
Pickwick, hastily checking himself--'mind, I do not say I should
have prevented it, if I had known that it was intended.'
'You hear that, all of you; you hear that?' said Mr. Benjamin Allen.
'I hope they do,' mildly observed Mr. Pickwick, looking
round, 'and,' added that gentleman, his colour mounting as he
spoke, 'I hope they hear this, Sir, also. That from what has been
stated to me, sir, I assert that you were by no means justified
in attempting to force your sister's inclinations as you did, and
that you should rather have endeavoured by your kindness and
forbearance to have supplied the place of other nearer relations
whom she had never known, from a child. As regards my young
friend, I must beg to add, that in every point of worldly advantage
he is, at least, on an equal footing with yourself, if not on a
much better one, and that unless I hear this question discussed
with becoming temper and moderation, I decline hearing any
more said upon the subject.'
'I wish to make a wery few remarks in addition to wot has
been put for'ard by the honourable gen'l'm'n as has jist give over,'
said Mr. Weller, stepping forth, 'wich is this here: a indiwidual
in company has called me a feller.'
'That has nothing whatever to do with the matter, Sam,' interposed
Mr. Pickwick. 'Pray hold your tongue.'
'I ain't a-goin' to say nothin' on that 'ere pint, sir,' replied
Sam, 'but merely this here. P'raps that gen'l'm'n may think as
there wos a priory 'tachment; but there worn't nothin' o' the
sort, for the young lady said in the wery beginnin' o' the keepin'
company, that she couldn't abide him. Nobody's cut him out,
and it 'ud ha' been jist the wery same for him if the young lady
had never seen Mr. Vinkle. That's what I wished to say, sir, and
I hope I've now made that 'ere gen'l'm'n's mind easy.
A short pause followed these consolatory remarks of Mr.
Weller. Then Mr. Ben Allen rising from his chair, protested that
he would never see Arabella's face again; while Mr. Bob Sawyer,
despite Sam's flattering assurance, vowed dreadful vengeance on
the happy bridegroom.
But, just when matters were at their height, and threatening to
remain so, Mr. Pickwick found a powerful assistant in the old
lady, who, evidently much struck by the mode in which he had
advocated her niece's cause, ventured to approach Mr. Benjamin
Allen with a few comforting reflections, of which the chief were,
that after all, perhaps, it was well it was no worse; the least said
the soonest mended, and upon her word she did not know that
it was so very bad after all; what was over couldn't be begun, and
what couldn't be cured must be endured; with various other
assurances of the like novel and strengthening description. To all
of these, Mr. Benjamin Allen replied that he meant no disrespect
to his aunt, or anybody there, but if it were all the same to them,
and they would allow him to have his own way, he would rather
have the pleasure of hating his sister till death, and after it.
At length, when this determination had been announced half a
hundred times, the old lady suddenly bridling up and looking very
majestic, wished to know what she had done that no respect was
to be paid to her years or station, and that she should be obliged
to beg and pray, in that way, of her own nephew, whom she
remembered about five-and-twenty years before he was born,
and whom she had known, personally, when he hadn't a tooth
in his head; to say nothing of her presence on the first occasion
of his having his hair cut, and assistance at numerous other times
and ceremonies during his babyhood, of sufficient importance to
found a claim upon his affection, obedience, and sympathies, for ever.
While the good lady was bestowing this objurgation on
Mr. Ben Allen, Bob Sawyer and Mr. Pickwick had retired in
close conversation to the inner room, where Mr. Sawyer was
observed to apply himself several times to the mouth of a black
bottle, under the influence of which, his features gradually
assumed a cheerful and even jovial expression. And at last he
emerged from the room, bottle in hand, and, remarking that he
was very sorry to say he had been making a fool of himself,
begged to propose the health and happiness of Mr. and Mrs.
Winkle, whose felicity, so far from envying, he would be the first
to congratulate them upon. Hearing this, Mr. Ben Allen suddenly
arose from his chair, and, seizing the black bottle, drank the
toast so heartily, that, the liquor being strong, he became nearly
as black in the face as the bottle. Finally, the black bottle went
round till it was empty, and there was so much shaking of hands
and interchanging of compliments, that even the metal-visaged
Mr. Martin condescended to smile.
'And now,' said Bob Sawyer, rubbing his hands, 'we'll have a
'I am sorry,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that I must return to my inn.
I have not been accustomed to fatigue lately, and my journey has
tired me exceedingly.'
'You'll take some tea, Mr. Pickwick?' said the old lady, with
'Thank you, I would rather not,' replied that gentleman. The
truth is, that the old lady's evidently increasing admiration was
Mr. Pickwick's principal inducement for going away. He thought
of Mrs. Bardell; and every glance of the old lady's eyes threw him
into a cold perspiration.
As Mr. Pickwick could by no means be prevailed upon to stay,
it was arranged at once, on his own proposition, that Mr. Benjamin
Allen should accompany him on his journey to the elder
Mr. Winkle's, and that the coach should be at the door, at nine
o'clock next morning. He then took his leave, and, followed by
Samuel Weller, repaired to the Bush. It is worthy of remark, that
Mr. Martin's face was horribly convulsed as he shook hands with
Sam at parting, and that he gave vent to a smile and an oath
simultaneously; from which tokens it has been inferred by those
who were best acquainted with that gentleman's peculiarities,
that he expressed himself much pleased with Mr. Weller's
society, and requested the honour of his further acquaintance.
'Shall I order a private room, Sir?' inquired Sam, when they
reached the Bush.
'Why, no, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'as I dined in the
coffee-room, and shall go to bed soon, it is hardly worth while.
See who there is in the travellers' room, Sam.'
Mr. Weller departed on his errand, and presently returned to
say that there was only a gentleman with one eye; and that he
and the landlord were drinking a bowl of bishop together.
'I will join them,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'He's a queer customer, the vun-eyed vun, sir,' observed Mr.
Weller, as he led the way. 'He's a-gammonin' that 'ere landlord,
he is, sir, till he don't rightly know wether he's a-standing on the
soles of his boots or the crown of his hat.'
The individual to whom this observation referred, was sitting
at the upper end of the room when Mr. Pickwick entered, and
was smoking a large Dutch pipe, with his eye intently fixed on the
round face of the landlord; a jolly-looking old personage, to
whom he had recently been relating some tale of wonder, as was
testified by sundry disjointed exclamations of, 'Well, I wouldn't
have believed it! The strangest thing I ever heard! Couldn't have
supposed it possible!' and other expressions of astonishment
which burst spontaneously from his lips, as he returned the fixed
gaze of the one-eyed man.
'Servant, sir,' said the one-eyed man to Mr. Pickwick. 'Fine
'Very much so indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, as the waiter
placed a small decanter of brandy, and some hot water before him.
While Mr. Pickwick was mixing his brandy-and-water, the
one-eyed man looked round at him earnestly, from time to time,
and at length said--
'I think I've seen you before.'
'I don't recollect you,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick.
'I dare say not,' said the one-eyed man. 'You didn't know me,
but I knew two friends of yours that were stopping at the Peacock
at Eatanswill, at the time of the election.'
'Oh, indeed!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes,' rejoined the one-eyed man. 'I mentioned a little circumstance
to them about a friend of mine of the name of Tom Smart.
Perhaps you've heard them speak of it.'
'Often,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, smiling. 'He was your uncle, I think?'
'No, no; only a friend of my uncle's,' replied the one-eyed man.
'He was a wonderful man, that uncle of yours, though,'
remarked the landlord shaking his head.
'Well, I think he was; I think I may say he was,' answered the
one-eyed man. 'I could tell you a story about that same uncle,
gentlemen, that would rather surprise you.'
'Could you?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Let us hear it, by all means.'
The one-eyed bagman ladled out a glass of negus from the
bowl, and drank it; smoked a long whiff out of the Dutch pipe;
and then, calling to Sam Weller who was lingering near the door,
that he needn't go away unless he wanted to, because the story
was no secret, fixed his eye upon the landlord's, and proceeded,
in the words of the next chapter.
CONTAINING THE STORY OF THE BAGMAN'S UNCLE
'My uncle, gentlemen,' said the bagman, 'was one of the
merriest, pleasantest, cleverest fellows, that ever lived. I wish
you had known him, gentlemen. On second thoughts, gentlemen,
I don't wish you had known him, for if you had, you would have
been all, by this time, in the ordinary course of nature, if not dead,
at all events so near it, as to have taken to stopping at home and
giving up company, which would have deprived me of the
inestimable pleasure of addressing you at this moment. Gentlemen,
I wish your fathers and mothers had known my uncle.
They would have been amazingly fond of him, especially your
respectable mothers; I know they would. If any two of his
numerous virtues predominated over the many that adorned his
character, I should say they were his mixed punch and his after-
supper song. Excuse my dwelling on these melancholy recollections
of departed worth; you won't see a man like my uncle
every day in the week.
'I have always considered it a great point in my uncle's
character, gentlemen, that he was the intimate friend and
companion of Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum,
Cateaton Street, City. My uncle collected for Tiggin and Welps,
but for a long time he went pretty near the same journey as Tom;
and the very first night they met, my uncle took a fancy for Tom,
and Tom took a fancy for my uncle. They made a bet of a new
hat before they had known each other half an hour, who should
brew the best quart of punch and drink it the quickest. My uncle
was judged to have won the making, but Tom Smart beat him in
the drinking by about half a salt-spoonful. They took another
quart apiece to drink each other's health in, and were staunch
friends ever afterwards. There's a destiny in these things, gentlemen;
we can't help it.
'In personal appearance, my uncle was a trifle shorter than the
middle size; he was a thought stouter too, than the ordinary run
of people, and perhaps his face might be a shade redder. He had
the jolliest face you ever saw, gentleman: something like Punch,
with a handsome nose and chin; his eyes were always twinkling
and sparkling with good-humour; and a smile--not one of your
unmeaning wooden grins, but a real, merry, hearty, good-
tempered smile--was perpetually on his countenance. He was
pitched out of his gig once, and knocked, head first, against a
milestone. There he lay, stunned, and so cut about the face with
some gravel which had been heaped up alongside it, that, to use
my uncle's own strong expression, if his mother could have
revisited the earth, she wouldn't have known him. Indeed, when
I come to think of the matter, gentlemen, I feel pretty sure she
wouldn't. for she died when my uncle was two years and seven
months old, and I think it's very likely that, even without the
gravel, his top-boots would have puzzled the good lady not a
little; to say nothing of his jolly red face. However, there he lay,
and I have heard my uncle say, many a time, that the man said
who picked him up that he was smiling as merrily as if he had
tumbled out for a treat, and that after they had bled him, the
first faint glimmerings of returning animation, were his jumping
up in bed, bursting out into a loud laugh, kissing the young
woman who held the basin, and demanding a mutton chop and
a pickled walnut. He was very fond of pickled walnuts, gentlemen.
He said he always found that, taken without vinegar, they
relished the beer.
'My uncle's great journey was in the fall of the leaf, at which
time he collected debts, and took orders, in the north; going
from London to Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to Glasgow, from
Glasgow back to Edinburgh, and thence to London by the
smack. You are to understand that his second visit to Edinburgh
was for his own pleasure. He used to go back for a week, just to
look up his old friends; and what with breakfasting with this one,
lunching with that, dining with the third, and supping with
another, a pretty tight week he used to make of it. I don't know
whether any of you, gentlemen, ever partook of a real substantial
hospitable Scotch breakfast, and then went out to a slight lunch
of a bushel of oysters, a dozen or so of bottled ale, and a noggin
or two of whiskey to close up with. If you ever did, you will
agree with me that it requires a pretty strong head to go out to
dinner and supper afterwards.
'But bless your hearts and eyebrows, all this sort of thing was
nothing to my uncle! He was so well seasoned, that it was mere
child's play. I have heard him say that he could see the Dundee
people out, any day, and walk home afterwards without staggering;
and yet the Dundee people have as strong heads and as
strong punch, gentlemen, as you are likely to meet with, between
the poles. I have heard of a Glasgow man and a Dundee man
drinking against each other for fifteen hours at a sitting. They
were both suffocated, as nearly as could be ascertained, at the
same moment, but with this trifling exception, gentlemen, they
were not a bit the worse for it.
'One night, within four-and-twenty hours of the time when he
had settled to take shipping for London, my uncle supped at the
house of a very old friend of his, a Bailie Mac something and
four syllables after it, who lived in the old town of Edinburgh.
There were the bailie's wife, and the bailie's three daughters, and
the bailie's grown-up son, and three or four stout, bushy eye-
browed, canny, old Scotch fellows, that the bailie had got
together to do honour to my uncle, and help to make merry. It
was a glorious supper. There was kippered salmon, and Finnan
haddocks, and a lamb's head, and a haggis--a celebrated Scotch
dish, gentlemen, which my uncle used to say always looked to
him, when it came to table, very much like a Cupid's stomach--
and a great many other things besides, that I forget the names
of, but very good things, notwithstanding. The lassies were
pretty and agreeable; the bailie's wife was one of the best
creatures that ever lived; and my uncle was in thoroughly good
cue. The consequence of which was, that the young ladies
tittered and giggled, and the old lady laughed out loud, and the
bailie and the other old fellows roared till they were red in the
face, the whole mortal time. I don't quite recollect how many
tumblers of whiskey-toddy each man drank after supper; but this
I know, that about one o'clock in the morning, the bailie's
grown-up son became insensible while attempting the first verse
of "Willie brewed a peck o' maut"; and he having been, for half
an hour before, the only other man visible above the mahogany,
it occurred to my uncle that it was almost time to think about
going, especially as drinking had set in at seven o'clock, in order
that he might get home at a decent hour. But, thinking it might
not be quite polite to go just then, my uncle voted himself into
the chair, mixed another glass, rose to propose his own health,
addressed himself in a neat and complimentary speech, and drank
the toast with great enthusiasm. Still nobody woke; so my uncle
took a little drop more--neat this time, to prevent the toddy from
disagreeing with him--and, laying violent hands on his hat,
sallied forth into the street.
'it was a wild, gusty night when my uncle closed the bailie's
door, and settling his hat firmly on his head to prevent the wind
from taking it, thrust his hands into his pockets, and looking
upward, took a short survey of the state of the weather. The
clouds were drifting over the moon at their giddiest speed; at one
time wholly obscuring her; at another, suffering her to burst
forth in full splendour and shed her light on all the objects
around; anon, driving over her again, with increased velocity,
and shrouding everything in darkness. "Really, this won't do,"
said my uncle, addressing himself to the weather, as if he felt
himself personally offended. "This is not at all the kind of thing
for my voyage. It will not do at any price," said my uncle, very
impressively. Having repeated this, several times, he recovered
his balance with some difficulty--for he was rather giddy with
looking up into the sky so long--and walked merrily on.
'The bailie's house was in the Canongate, and my uncle was
going to the other end of Leith Walk, rather better than a mile's
journey. On either side of him, there shot up against the dark sky,
tall, gaunt, straggling houses, with time-stained fronts, and
windows that seemed to have shared the lot of eyes in mortals,
and to have grown dim and sunken with age. Six, seven, eight
Storey high, were the houses; storey piled upon storey, as
children build with cards--throwing their dark shadows over
the roughly paved road, and making the dark night darker. A
few oil lamps were scattered at long distances, but they only
served to mark the dirty entrance to some narrow close, or to
show where a common stair communicated, by steep and intricate
windings, with the various flats above. Glancing at all these
things with the air of a man who had seen them too often before,
to think them worthy of much notice now, my uncle walked up
the middle of the street, with a thumb in each waistcoat pocket,
indulging from time to time in various snatches of song, chanted
forth with such good-will and spirit, that the quiet honest folk
started from their first sleep and lay trembling in bed till the
sound died away in the distance; when, satisfying themselves that
it was only some drunken ne'er-do-weel finding his way home,
they covered themselves up warm and fell asleep again.
'I am particular in describing how my uncle walked up the
middle of the street, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets,
gentlemen, because, as he often used to say (and with great
reason too) there is nothing at all extraordinary in this story,
unless you distinctly understand at the beginning, that he was not
by any means of a marvellous or romantic turn.
'Gentlemen, my uncle walked on with his thumbs in his
waistcoat pockets, taking the middle of the street to himself, and
singing, now a verse of a love song, and then a verse of a drinking
one, and when he was tired of both, whistling melodiously, until
he reached the North Bridge, which, at this point, connects the
old and new towns of Edinburgh. Here he stopped for a minute,
to look at the strange, irregular clusters of lights piled one above
the other, and twinkling afar off so high, that they looked like
stars, gleaming from the castle walls on the one side and the
Calton Hill on the other, as if they illuminated veritable castles in
the air; while the old picturesque town slept heavily on, in gloom
and darkness below: its palace and chapel of Holyrood, guarded
day and night, as a friend of my uncle's used to say, by old
Arthur's Seat, towering, surly and dark, like some gruff genius,
over the ancient city he has watched so long. I say, gentlemen,
my uncle stopped here, for a minute, to look about him; and
then, paying a compliment to the weather, which had a little
cleared up, though the moon was sinking, walked on again, as
royally as before; keeping the middle of the road with great
dignity, and looking as if he would very much like to meet with
somebody who would dispute possession of it with him. There
was nobody at all disposed to contest the point, as it happened;
and so, on he went, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, like
'When my uncle reached the end of Leith Walk, he had to
cross a pretty large piece of waste ground which separated him
from a short street which he had to turn down to go direct to his
lodging. Now, in this piece of waste ground, there was, at that
time, an enclosure belonging to some wheelwright who contracted
with the Post Office for the purchase of old, worn-out mail
coaches; and my uncle, being very fond of coaches, old, young,
or middle-aged, all at once took it into his head to step out of his
road for no other purpose than to peep between the palings at
these mails--about a dozen of which he remembered to have seen,
crowded together in a very forlorn and dismantled state, inside.
My uncle was a very enthusiastic, emphatic sort of person,
gentlemen; so, finding that he could not obtain a good peep
between the palings he got over them, and sitting himself quietly
down on an old axle-tree, began to contemplate the mail coaches
with a deal of gravity.
'There might be a dozen of them, or there might be more--
my uncle was never quite certain on this point, and being a man
of very scrupulous veracity about numbers, didn't like to say--
but there they stood, all huddled together in the most desolate
condition imaginable. The doors had been torn from their hinges
and removed; the linings had been stripped off, only a shred
hanging here and there by a rusty nail; the lamps were gone, the
poles had long since vanished, the ironwork was rusty, the paint
was worn away; the wind whistled through the chinks in the bare
woodwork; and the rain, which had collected on the roofs, fell,
drop by drop, into the insides with a hollow and melancholy
sound. They were the decaying skeletons of departed mails, and in
that lonely place, at that time of night, they looked chill and dismal.
'My uncle rested his head upon his hands, and thought of the
busy, bustling people who had rattled about, years before, in the
old coaches, and were now as silent and changed; he thought of
the numbers of people to whom one of these crazy, mouldering
vehicles had borne, night after night, for many years, and through
all weathers, the anxiously expected intelligence, the eagerly
looked-for remittance, the promised assurance of health and
safety, the sudden announcement of sickness and death. The
merchant, the lover, the wife, the widow, the mother, the school-
boy, the very child who tottered to the door at the postman's
knock--how had they all looked forward to the arrival of the old
coach. And where were they all now?
'Gentlemen, my uncle used to SAY that he thought all this at the
time, but I rather suspect he learned it out of some book afterwards,
for he distinctly stated that he fell into a kind of doze, as he
sat on the old axle-tree looking at the decayed mail coaches, and
that he was suddenly awakened by some deep church bell
striking two. Now, my uncle was never a fast thinker, and if he
had thought all these things, I am quite certain it would have
taken him till full half-past two o'clock at the very least. I am,
therefore, decidedly of opinion, gentlemen, that my uncle fell
into a kind of doze, without having thought about anything at all.
'Be this as it may, a church bell struck two. My uncle woke,
rubbed his eyes, and jumped up in astonishment.
'In one instant, after the clock struck two, the whole of this
deserted and quiet spot had become a scene of most extraordinary
life and animation. The mail coach doors were on their
hinges, the lining was replaced, the ironwork was as good as
new, the paint was restored, the lamps were alight; cushions and
greatcoats were on every coach-box, porters were thrusting
parcels into every boot, guards were stowing away letter-bags,
hostlers were dashing pails of water against the renovated wheels;
numbers of men were pushing about, fixing poles into every
coach; passengers arrived, portmanteaus were handed up,
horses were put to; in short, it was perfectly clear that every mail
there, was to be off directly. Gentlemen, my uncle opened his
eyes so wide at all this, that, to the very last moment of his life,
he used to wonder how it fell out that he had ever been able to
shut 'em again.
'"Now then!" said a voice, as my uncle felt a hand on his
shoulder, "you're booked for one inside. You'd better get in."
'"I booked!" said my uncle, turning round.
'My uncle, gentlemen, could say nothing, he was so very much
astonished. The queerest thing of all was that although there was
such a crowd of persons, and although fresh faces were pouring
in, every moment, there was no telling where they came from.
They seemed to start up, in some strange manner, from the
ground, or the air, and disappear in the same way. When a
porter had put his luggage in the coach, and received his fare, he
turned round and was gone; and before my uncle had well begun
to wonder what had become of him, half a dozen fresh ones
started up, and staggered along under the weight of parcels,
which seemed big enough to crush them. The passengers were all
dressed so oddly too! Large, broad-skirted laced coats, with
great cuffs and no collars; and wigs, gentlemen--great formal
wigs with a tie behind. My uncle could make nothing of it.
'"Now, are you going to get in?" said the person who had
addressed my uncle before. He was dressed as a mail guard, with
a wig on his head and most enormous cuffs to his coat, and had
a lantern in one hand, and a huge blunderbuss in the other,
which he was going to stow away in his little arm-chest. "ARE you
going to get in, Jack Martin?" said the guard, holding the lantern
to my uncle's face.
'"Hollo!" said my uncle, falling back a step or two. "That's familiar!"
'"It's so on the way-bill," said the guard.
'"Isn't there a 'Mister' before it?" said my uncle. For he felt,
gentlemen, that for a guard he didn't know, to call him Jack
Martin, was a liberty which the Post Office wouldn't have
sanctioned if they had known it.
'"No, there is not," rejoined the guard coolly.
'"Is the fare paid?" inquired my uncle.
'"Of course it is," rejoined the guard.
'"it is, is it?" said my uncle. "Then here goes! Which coach?"
'"This," said the guard, pointing to an old-fashioned Edinburgh
and London mail, which had the steps down and the door open.
"Stop! Here are the other passengers. Let them get in first."
'As the guard spoke, there all at once appeared, right in front
of my uncle, a young gentleman in a powdered wig, and a sky-
blue coat trimmed with silver, made very full and broad in the
skirts, which were lined with buckram. Tiggin and Welps were in
the printed calico and waistcoat piece line, gentlemen, so my
uncle knew all the materials at once. He wore knee breeches, and
a kind of leggings rolled up over his silk stockings, and shoes with
buckles; he had ruffles at his wrists, a three-cornered hat on his
head, and a long taper sword by his side. The flaps of his waist-
coat came half-way down his thighs, and the ends of his cravat
reached to his waist. He stalked gravely to the coach door, pulled
off his hat, and held it above his head at arm's length, cocking his
little finger in the air at the same time, as some affected people
do, when they take a cup of tea. Then he drew his feet together,
and made a low, grave bow, and then put out his left hand. My
uncle was just going to step forward, and shake it heartily, when
he perceived that these attentions were directed, not towards him,
but to a young lady who just then appeared at the foot of the
steps, attired in an old-fashioned green velvet dress with a long
waist and stomacher. She had no bonnet on her head, gentlemen,
which was muffled in a black silk hood, but she looked round for
an instant as she prepared to get into the coach, and such a
beautiful face as she disclosed, my uncle had never seen--not even
in a picture. She got into the coach, holding up her dress with one
hand; and as my uncle always said with a round oath, when he
told the story, he wouldn't have believed it possible that legs and
feet could have been brought to such a state of perfection unless
he had seen them with his own eyes.
'But, in this one glimpse of the beautiful face, my uncle saw
that the young lady cast an imploring look upon him, and that
she appeared terrified and distressed. He noticed, too, that the
young fellow in the powdered wig, notwithstanding his show of
gallantry, which was all very fine and grand, clasped her tight by
the wrist when she got in, and followed himself immediately
afterwards. An uncommonly ill-looking fellow, in a close brown
wig, and a plum-coloured suit, wearing a very large sword, and
boots up to his hips, belonged to the party; and when he sat
himself down next to the young lady, who shrank into a corner
at his approach, my uncle was confirmed in his original
impression that something dark and mysterious was going forward,
or, as he always said himself, that "there was a screw
loose somewhere." It's quite surprising how quickly he made
up his mind to help the lady at any peril, if she needed any help.
'"Death and lightning!" exclaimed the young gentleman,
laying his hand upon his sword as my uncle entered the coach.
'"Blood and thunder!" roared the other gentleman. With
this, he whipped his sword out, and made a lunge at my uncle
without further ceremony. My uncle had no weapon about him,
but with great dexterity he snatched the ill-looking gentleman's
three-cornered hat from his head, and, receiving the point of his
sword right through the crown, squeezed the sides together, and
held it tight.
'"Pink him behind!" cried the ill-looking gentleman to his
companion, as he struggled to regain his sword.
'"He had better not," cried my uncle, displaying the heel of
one of his shoes, in a threatening manner. "I'll kick his brains
out, if he has any--, or fracture his skull if he hasn't." Exerting all
his strength, at this moment, my uncle wrenched the ill-looking
man's sword from his grasp, and flung it clean out of the coach
window, upon which the younger gentleman vociferated, "Death
and lightning!" again, and laid his hand upon the hilt of his
sword, in a very fierce manner, but didn't draw it. Perhaps,
gentlemen, as my uncle used to say with a smile, perhaps he was
afraid of alarming the lady.
'"Now, gentlemen," said my uncle, taking his seat deliberately,
"I don't want to have any death, with or without lightning,
in a lady's presence, and we have had quite blood and
thundering enough for one journey; so, if you please, we'll sit in
our places like quiet insides. Here, guard, pick up that
'As quickly as my uncle said the words, the guard appeared at
the coach window, with the gentleman's sword in his hand. He
held up his lantern, and looked earnestly in my uncle's face, as
he handed it in, when, by its light, my uncle saw, to his great
surprise, that an immense crowd of mail-coach guards swarmed
round the window, every one of whom had his eyes earnestly
fixed upon him too. He had never seen such a sea of white faces,
red bodies, and earnest eyes, in all his born days.
'"This is the strangest sort of thing I ever had anything to do
with," thought my uncle; "allow me to return you your hat, sir."
'The ill-looking gentleman received his three-cornered hat in
silence, looked at the hole in the middle with an inquiring air,
and finally stuck it on the top of his wig with a solemnity the
effect of which was a trifle impaired by his sneezing violently at
the moment, and jerking it off again.
'"All right!" cried the guard with the lantern, mounting into
his little seat behind. Away they went. My uncle peeped out of
the coach window as they emerged from the yard, and observed
that the other mails, with coachmen, guards, horses, and
passengers, complete, were driving round and round in circles, at
a slow trot of about five miles an hour. My uncle burned with
indignation, gentlemen. As a commercial man, he felt that the
mail-bags were not to be trifled with, and he resolved to memorialise
the Post Office on the subject, the very instant he reached London.
'At present, however, his thoughts were occupied with the
young lady who sat in the farthest corner of the coach, with her
face muffled closely in her hood; the gentleman with the sky-blue
coat sitting opposite to her; the other man in the plum-coloured
suit, by her side; and both watching her intently. If she so much
as rustled the folds of her hood, he could hear the ill-looking man
clap his hand upon his sword, and could tell by the other's
breathing (it was so dark he couldn't see his face) that he was
looking as big as if he were going to devour her at a mouthful.
This roused my uncle more and more, and he resolved, come
what might, to see the end of it. He had a great admiration for
bright eyes, and sweet faces, and pretty legs and feet; in short, he
was fond of the whole sex. It runs in our family, gentleman--so
'Many were the devices which my uncle practised, to attract
the lady's attention, or at all events, to engage the mysterious
gentlemen in conversation. They were all in vain; the gentlemen
wouldn't talk, and the lady didn't dare. He thrust his head out of
the coach window at intervals, and bawled out to know why they
didn't go faster. But he called till he was hoarse; nobody paid the
least attention to him. He leaned back in the coach, and thought
of the beautiful face, and the feet and legs. This answered better;
it whiled away the time, and kept him from wondering where he
was going, and how it was that he found himself in such an odd
situation. Not that this would have worried him much, anyway
--he was a mighty free and easy, roving, devil-may-care sort of
person, was my uncle, gentlemen.
'All of a sudden the coach stopped. "Hollo!" said my uncle,
"what's in the wind now?"
'"Alight here," said the guard, letting down the steps.
'"Here!" cried my uncle.
'"Here," rejoined the guard.
'"I'll do nothing of the sort," said my uncle.
'"Very well, then stop where you are," said the guard.
'"I will," said my uncle.
'"Do," said the guard.
'The passengers had regarded this colloquy with great attention,
and, finding that my uncle was determined not to alight,
the younger man squeezed past him, to hand the lady out. At this
moment, the ill-looking man was inspecting the hole in the crown
of his three-cornered hat. As the young lady brushed past, she
dropped one of her gloves into my uncle's hand, and softly
whispered, with her lips so close to his face that he felt her warm
breath on his nose, the single word "Help!" Gentlemen, my
uncle leaped out of the coach at once, with such violence that it
rocked on the springs again.
'"Oh! you've thought better of it, have you?" said the guard,
when he saw my uncle standing on the ground.
'My uncle looked at the guard for a few seconds, in some
doubt whether it wouldn't be better to wrench his blunderbuss
from him, fire it in the face of the man with the big sword, knock
the rest of the company over the head with the stock, snatch up
the young lady, and go off in the smoke. On second thoughts,
however, he abandoned this plan, as being a shade too
melodramatic in the execution, and followed the two mysterious men,
who, keeping the lady between them, were now entering an old
house in front of which the coach had stopped. They turned into
the passage, and my uncle followed.
'Of all the ruinous and desolate places my uncle had ever
beheld, this was the most so. It looked as if it had once been a
large house of entertainment; but the roof had fallen in, in many
places, and the stairs were steep, rugged, and broken. There was
a huge fireplace in the room into which they walked, and the
chimney was blackened with smoke; but no warm blaze lighted
it up now. The white feathery dust of burned wood was still
strewed over the hearth, but the stove was cold, and all was dark
'"Well," said my uncle, as he looked about him, "a mail
travelling at the rate of six miles and a half an hour, and stopping
for an indefinite time at such a hole as this, is rather an irregular
sort of proceeding, I fancy. This shall be made known. I'll write
to the papers."
'My uncle said this in a pretty loud voice, and in an open,
unreserved sort of manner, with the view of engaging the two
strangers in conversation if he could. But, neither of them took
any more notice of him than whispering to each other, and
scowling at him as they did so. The lady was at the farther end of
the room, and once she ventured to wave her hand, as if beseeching
my uncle's assistance.
'At length the two strangers advanced a little, and the
conversation began in earnest.
'"You don't know this is a private room, I suppose, fellow?"
said the gentleman in sky-blue.
'"No, I do not, fellow," rejoined my uncle. "Only, if this is a
private room specially ordered for the occasion, I should think
the public room must be a VERY comfortable one;" with this, my
uncle sat himself down in a high-backed chair, and took such an
accurate measure of the gentleman, with his eyes, that Tiggin and
Welps could have supplied him with printed calico for a suit, and
not an inch too much or too little, from that estimate alone.
'"Quit this room," said both men together, grasping their swords.
'"Eh?" said my uncle, not at all appearing to comprehend
'"Quit the room, or you are a dead man," said the ill-looking
fellow with the large sword, drawing it at the same time and
flourishing it in the air.
'"Down with him!" cried the gentleman in sky-blue, drawing
his sword also, and falling back two or three yards. "Down
with him!" The lady gave a loud scream.
'Now, my uncle was always remarkable for great boldness, and
great presence of mind. All the time that he had appeared so
indifferent to what was going on, he had been looking slily about for
some missile or weapon of defence, and at the very instant when
the swords were drawn, he espied, standing in the chimney-
corner, an old basket-hilted rapier in a rusty scabbard. At one
bound, my uncle caught it in his hand, drew it, flourished it
gallantly above his head, called aloud to the lady to keep out of
the way, hurled the chair at the man in sky-blue, and the scabbard
at the man in plum-colour, and taking advantage of the
confusion, fell upon them both, pell-mell.
'Gentlemen, there is an old story--none the worse for being
true--regarding a fine young Irish gentleman, who being asked if
he could play the fiddle, replied he had no doubt he could, but he
couldn't exactly say, for certain, because he had never tried. This
is not inapplicable to my uncle and his fencing. He had never had
a sword in his hand before, except once when he played Richard
the Third at a private theatre, upon which occasion it was
arranged with Richmond that he was to be run through, from
behind, without showing fight at all. But here he was, cutting and
slashing with two experienced swordsman, thrusting, and guarding,
and poking, and slicing, and acquitting himself in the most
manful and dexterous manner possible, although up to that time
he had never been aware that he had the least notion of the
science. It only shows how true the old saying is, that a man never
knows what he can do till he tries, gentlemen.
'The noise of the combat was terrific; each of the three
combatants swearing like troopers, and their swords clashing with as
much noise as if all the knives and steels in Newport market were
rattling together, at the same time. When it was at its very height,
the lady (to encourage my uncle most probably) withdrew
her hood entirely from her face, and disclosed a countenance of
such dazzling beauty, that he would have fought against fifty
men, to win one smile from it and die. He had done wonders
before, but now he began to powder away like a raving mad giant.
'At this very moment, the gentleman in sky-blue turning
round, and seeing the young lady with her face uncovered,
vented an exclamation of rage and jealousy, and, turning his
weapon against her beautiful bosom, pointed a thrust at her
heart, which caused my uncle to utter a cry of apprehension that
made the building ring. The lady stepped lightly aside, and
snatching the young man's sword from his hand, before he had
recovered his balance, drove him to the wall, and running it
through him, and the panelling, up to the very hilt, pinned him
there, hard and fast. It was a splendid example. My uncle, with a
loud shout of triumph, and a strength that was irresistible, made
his adversary retreat in the same direction, and plunging the old
rapier into the very centre of a large red flower in the pattern of
his waistcoat, nailed him beside his friend; there they both stood,
gentlemen, jerking their arms and legs about in agony, like the
toy-shop figures that are moved by a piece of pack-thread. My
uncle always said, afterwards, that this was one of the surest
means he knew of, for disposing of an enemy; but it was liable to
one objection on the ground of expense, inasmuch as it involved
the loss of a sword for every man disabled.
'"The mail, the mail!" cried the lady, running up to my uncle
and throwing her beautiful arms round his neck; "we may yet escape."
'"May!" cried my uncle; "why, my dear, there's nobody else
to kill, is there?" My uncle was rather disappointed, gentlemen,
for he thought a little quiet bit of love-making would be agreeable
after the slaughtering, if it were only to change the subject.
'"We have not an instant to lose here," said the young lady.
"He (pointing to the young gentleman in sky-blue) is the only
son of the powerful Marquess of Filletoville."
'"Well then, my dear, I'm afraid he'll never come to the
title," said my uncle, looking coolly at the young gentleman as he
stood fixed up against the wall, in the cockchafer fashion that I
have described. "You have cut off the entail, my love."
'"I have been torn from my home and my friends by these
villains," said the young lady, her features glowing with indignation.
"That wretch would have married me by violence in another hour."
'"Confound his impudence!" said my uncle, bestowing a very
contemptuous look on the dying heir of Filletoville.
' "As you may guess from what you have seen," said the
young lady, "the party were prepared to murder me if I appealed
to any one for assistance. If their accomplices find us here, we are
lost. Two minutes hence may be too late. The mail!" With these
words, overpowered by her feelings, and the exertion of sticking
the young Marquess of Filletoville, she sank into my uncle's
arms. My uncle caught her up, and bore her to the house door.
There stood the mail, with four long-tailed, flowing-maned, black
horses, ready harnessed; but no coachman, no guard, no hostler
even, at the horses' heads.
'Gentlemen, I hope I do no injustice to my uncle's memory,
when I express my opinion, that although he was a bachelor, he
had held some ladies in his arms before this time; I believe,
indeed, that he had rather a habit of kissing barmaids; and I
know, that in one or two instances, he had been seen by credible
witnesses, to hug a landlady in a very perceptible manner. I
mention the circumstance, to show what a very uncommon sort
of person this beautiful young lady must have been, to have
affected my uncle in the way she did; he used to say, that as her
long dark hair trailed over his arm, and her beautiful dark eyes
fixed themselves upon his face when she recovered, he felt so
strange and nervous that his legs trembled beneath him. But
who can look in a sweet, soft pair of dark eyes, without feeling
queer? I can't, gentlemen. I am afraid to look at some eyes I
know, and that's the truth of it.
'"You will never leave me," murmured the young lady.
'"Never," said my uncle. And he meant it too.
'"My dear preserver!" exclaimed the young lady. "My dear,
kind, brave preserver!"
'"Don't," said my uncle, interrupting her.
'"'Why?" inquired the young lady.
'"Because your mouth looks so beautiful when you speak,"
rejoined my uncle, "that I'm afraid I shall be rude enough to
'The young lady put up her hand as if to caution my uncle not
to do so, and said-- No, she didn't say anything--she smiled.
When you are looking at a pair of the most delicious lips in the
world, and see them gently break into a roguish smile--if you are
very near them, and nobody else by--you cannot better testify
your admiration of their beautiful form and colour than by
kissing them at once. My uncle did so, and I honour him for it.
'"Hark!" cried the young lady, starting. "The noise of wheels,
'"So it is," said my uncle, listening. He had a good ear for
wheels, and the trampling of hoofs; but there appeared to be so
many horses and carriages rattling towards them, from a distance,
that it was impossible to form a guess at their number. The sound
was like that of fifty brakes, with six blood cattle in each.
'"We are pursued!" cried the young lady, clasping her hands.
"We are pursued. I have no hope but in you!"
'There was such an expression of terror in her beautiful face,
that my uncle made up his mind at once. He lifted her into the
coach, told her not to be frightened, pressed his lips to hers once
more, and then advising her to draw up the window to keep the
cold air out, mounted to the box.
'"Stay, love," cried the young lady.
'"What's the matter?" said my uncle, from the coach-box.
'"I want to speak to you," said the young lady; "only a word.
Only one word, dearest."
'"Must I get down?" inquired my uncle. The lady made no
answer, but she smiled again. Such a smile, gentlemen! It beat
the other one, all to nothing. My uncle descended from his perch
in a twinkling.
'"What is it, my dear?" said my uncle, looking in at the coach
window. The lady happened to bend forward at the same time,
and my uncle thought she looked more beautiful than she had
done yet. He was very close to her just then, gentlemen, so he
really ought to know.
'"What is it, my dear?" said my uncle.
'"Will you never love any one but me--never marry any one
beside?" said the young lady.
'My uncle swore a great oath that he never would marry anybody
else, and the young lady drew in her head, and pulled up
the window. He jumped upon the box, squared his elbows,
adjusted the ribands, seized the whip which lay on the roof, gave
one flick to the off leader, and away went the four long-tailed,
flowing-maned black horses, at fifteen good English miles an
hour, with the old mail-coach behind them. Whew! How they
'The noise behind grew louder. The faster the old mail went,
the faster came the pursuers--men, horses, dogs, were leagued
in the pursuit. The noise was frightful, but, above all, rose the
voice of the young lady, urging my uncle on, and shrieking,
'They whirled past the dark trees, as feathers would be swept
before a hurricane. Houses, gates, churches, haystacks, objects of
every kind they shot by, with a velocity and noise like roaring
waters suddenly let loose. But still the noise of pursuit grew
louder, and still my uncle could hear the young lady wildly
screaming, "Faster! Faster!"
'My uncle plied whip and rein, and the horses flew onward till
they were white with foam; and yet the noise behind increased;
and yet the young lady cried, "Faster! Faster!" My uncle gave a
loud stamp on the boot in the energy of the moment, and--
found that it was gray morning, and he was sitting in the wheelwright's
yard, on the box of an old Edinburgh mail, shivering with
the cold and wet and stamping his feet to warm them! He got
down, and looked eagerly inside for the beautiful young lady.
Alas! There was neither door nor seat to the coach. It was a
'Of course, my uncle knew very well that there was some
mystery in the matter, and that everything had passed exactly as
he used to relate it. He remained staunch to the great oath he
had sworn to the beautiful young lady, refusing several eligible
landladies on her account, and dying a bachelor at last. He
always said what a curious thing it was that he should have
found out, by such a mere accident as his clambering over the
palings, that the ghosts of mail-coaches and horses, guards,
coachmen, and passengers, were in the habit of making journeys
regularly every night. He used to add, that he believed he was the
only living person who had ever been taken as a passenger on
one of these excursions. And I think he was right, gentlemen--
at least I never heard of any other.'
'I wonder what these ghosts of mail-coaches carry in their bags,'
said the landlord, who had listened to the whole story with
'The dead letters, of course,' said the bagman.
'Oh, ah! To be sure,' rejoined the landlord. 'I never thought
HOW Mr. PICKWICK SPED UPON HIS MISSION, AND HOW
HE WAS REINFORCED IN THE OUTSET BY A MOST
The horses were put to, punctually at a quarter before nine
next morning, and Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller having each taken
his seat, the one inside and the other out, the postillion
was duly directed to repair in the first instance to Mr. Bob
Sawyer's house, for the purpose of taking up Mr. Benjamin Allen.
It was with feelings of no small astonishment, when the
carriage drew up before the door with the red lamp, and the very
legible inscription of 'Sawyer, late Nockemorf,' that Mr. Pickwick
saw, on popping his head out of the coach window, the boy
in the gray livery very busily employed in putting up the shutters
--the which, being an unusual and an unbusinesslike proceeding
at that hour of the morning, at once suggested to his mind two
inferences: the one, that some good friend and patient of Mr.
Bob Sawyer's was dead; the other, that Mr. Bob Sawyer himself
'What is the matter?' said Mr. Pickwick to the boy.
'Nothing's the matter, Sir,' replied the boy, expanding his
mouth to the whole breadth of his countenance.
'All right, all right!' cried Bob Sawyer, suddenly appearing at
the door, with a small leathern knapsack, limp and dirty, in one
hand, and a rough coat and shawl thrown over the other arm.
'I'm going, old fellow.'
'You!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes,' replied Bob Sawyer, 'and a regular expedition we'll make
of it. Here, Sam! Look out!' Thus briefly bespeaking Mr. Weller's
attention, Mr. Bob Sawyer jerked the leathern knapsack into
the dickey, where it was immediately stowed away, under the
seat, by Sam, who regarded the proceeding with great admiration.
This done, Mr. Bob Sawyer, with the assistance of the boy,
forcibly worked himself into the rough coat, which was a few
sizes too small for him, and then advancing to the coach window,
thrust in his head, and laughed boisterously.
'What a start it is, isn't it?' cried Bob, wiping the tears out of
his eyes, with one of the cuffs of the rough coat.
'My dear Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, with some embarrassment,
'I had no idea of your accompanying us.'
'No, that's just the very thing,' replied Bob, seizing Mr. Pickwick
by the lappel of his coat. 'That's the joke.'
'Oh, that's the joke, is it?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Of course,' replied Bob. 'It's the whole point of the thing, you
know--that, and leaving the business to take care of itself, as it
seems to have made up its mind not to take care of me.' With
this explanation of the phenomenon of the shutters, Mr. Bob
Sawyer pointed to the shop, and relapsed into an ecstasy of mirth.
'Bless me, you are surely not mad enough to think of leaving
your patients without anybody to attend them!' remonstrated
Mr. Pickwick in a very serious tone.
'Why not?' asked Bob, in reply. 'I shall save by it, you know.
None of them ever pay. Besides,' said Bob, lowering his voice to
a confidential whisper, 'they will be all the better for it; for,
being nearly out of drugs, and not able to increase my account
just now, I should have been obliged to give them calomel all
round, and it would have been certain to have disagreed with
some of them. So it's all for the best.'
There was a philosophy and a strength of reasoning about this
reply, which Mr. Pickwick was not prepared for. He paused a
few moments, and added, less firmly than before--
'But this chaise, my young friend, will only hold two; and I am
pledged to Mr. Allen.'
'Don't think of me for a minute,' replied Bob. 'I've arranged
it all; Sam and I will share the dickey between us. Look here.
This little bill is to be wafered on the shop door: "Sawyer, late
Nockemorf. Inquire of Mrs. Cripps over the way." Mrs. Cripps
is my boy's mother. "Mr. Sawyer's very sorry," says Mrs. Cripps,
"couldn't help it--fetched away early this morning to a
consultation of the very first surgeons in the country--couldn't do
without him--would have him at any price--tremendous
operation." The fact is,' said Bob, in conclusion, 'it'll do me more
good than otherwise, I expect. If it gets into one of the local
papers, it will be the making of me. Here's Ben; now then,
With these hurried words, Mr. Bob Sawyer pushed the postboy
on one side, jerked his friend into the vehicle, slammed the door,
put up the steps, wafered the bill on the street door, locked it,
put the key in his pocket, jumped into the dickey, gave the word
for starting, and did the whole with such extraordinary
precipitation, that before Mr. Pickwick had well begun to consider
whether Mr. Bob Sawyer ought to go or not, they were rolling
away, with Mr. Bob Sawyer thoroughly established as part and
parcel of the equipage.
So long as their progress was confined to the streets of Bristol,
the facetious Bob kept his professional green spectacles on, and
conducted himself with becoming steadiness and gravity of
demeanour; merely giving utterance to divers verbal witticisms
for the exclusive behoof and entertainment of Mr. Samuel Weller.
But when they emerged on the open road, he threw off his green
spectacles and his gravity together, and performed a great variety
of practical jokes, which were calculated to attract the attention
of the passersby, and to render the carriage and those it
contained objects of more than ordinary curiosity; the least
conspicuous among these feats being a most vociferous imitation of
a key-bugle, and the ostentatious display of a crimson silk
pocket-handkerchief attached to a walking-stick, which was
occasionally waved in the air with various gestures indicative of
supremacy and defiance.
'I wonder,' said Mr. Pickwick, stopping in the midst of a most
sedate conversation with Ben Allen, bearing reference to the
numerous good qualities of Mr. Winkle and his sister--'I wonder
what all the people we pass, can see in us to make them stare so.'
'It's a neat turn-out,' replied Ben Allen, with something of
pride in his tone. 'They're not used to see this sort of thing, every
day, I dare say.'
'Possibly,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'It may be so. Perhaps it is.'
Mr. Pickwick might very probably have reasoned himself into
the belief that it really was, had he not, just then happening to
look out of the coach window, observed that the looks of the
passengers betokened anything but respectful astonishment, and
that various telegraphic communications appeared to be passing
between them and some persons outside the vehicle, whereupon
it occurred to him that these demonstrations might be, in some
remote degree, referable to the humorous deportment of Mr.
'I hope,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that our volatile friend is
committing no absurdities in that dickey behind.'
'Oh dear, no,' replied Ben Allen. 'Except when he's elevated,
Bob's the quietest creature breathing.'
Here a prolonged imitation of a key-bugle broke upon the ear,
succeeded by cheers and screams, all of which evidently proceeded
from the throat and lungs of the quietest creature breathing,
or in plainer designation, of Mr. Bob Sawyer himself.
Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Ben Allen looked expressively at each
other, and the former gentleman taking off his hat, and leaning
out of the coach window until nearly the whole of his waistcoat
was outside it, was at length enabled to catch a glimpse of his
Mr. Bob Sawyer was seated, not in the dickey, but on the roof
of the chaise, with his legs as far asunder as they would
conveniently go, wearing Mr. Samuel Weller's hat on one side of his
head, and bearing, in one hand, a most enormous sandwich,
while, in the other, he supported a goodly-sized case-bottle, to
both of which he applied himself with intense relish, varying the
monotony of the occupation by an occasional howl, or the
interchange of some lively badinage with any passing stranger.
The crimson flag was carefully tied in an erect position to the rail
of the dickey; and Mr. Samuel Weller, decorated with Bob
Sawyer's hat, was seated in the centre thereof, discussing a twin
sandwich, with an animated countenance, the expression of which
betokened his entire and perfect approval of the whole arrangement.
This was enough to irritate a gentleman with Mr. Pickwick's
sense of propriety, but it was not the whole extent of the aggravation,
for a stage-coach full, inside and out, was meeting them at
the moment, and the astonishment of the passengers was very
palpably evinced. The congratulations of an Irish family, too,
who were keeping up with the chaise, and begging all the time,
were of rather a boisterous description, especially those of its
male head, who appeared to consider the display as part and
parcel of some political or other procession of triumph.
'Mr. Sawyer!' cried Mr. Pickwick, in a state of great excitement,
'Mr. Sawyer, Sir!'
'Hollo!' responded that gentleman, looking over the side of the
chaise with all the coolness in life.
'Are you mad, sir?' demanded Mr. Pickwick.
'Not a bit of it,' replied Bob; 'only cheerful.'
'Cheerful, sir!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick. 'Take down that
scandalous red handkerchief, I beg. I insist, Sir. Sam, take it down.'
Before Sam could interpose, Mr. Bob Sawyer gracefully struck
his colours, and having put them in his pocket, nodded in a
courteous manner to Mr. Pickwick, wiped the mouth of the case-
bottle, and applied it to his own, thereby informing him, without
any unnecessary waste of words, that he devoted that draught
to wishing him all manner of happiness and prosperity. Having
done this, Bob replaced the cork with great care, and looking
benignantly down on Mr. Pickwick, took a large bite out of the
sandwich, and smiled.
'Come,' said Mr. Pickwick, whose momentary anger was not
quite proof against Bob's immovable self-possession, 'pray let us
have no more of this absurdity.'
'No, no,' replied Bob, once more exchanging hats with Mr.
Weller; 'I didn't mean to do it, only I got so enlivened with the
ride that I couldn't help it.'
'Think of the look of the thing,' expostulated Mr. Pickwick;
'have some regard to appearances.'
'Oh, certainly,' said Bob, 'it's not the sort of thing at all. All
Satisfied with this assurance, Mr. Pickwick once more drew his
head into the chaise and pulled up the glass; but he had scarcely
resumed the conversation which Mr. Bob Sawyer had interrupted,
when he was somewhat startled by the apparition of a small dark
body, of an oblong form, on the outside of the window, which
gave sundry taps against it, as if impatient of admission.
'What's this?'exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'It looks like a case-bottle;' remarked Ben Allen, eyeing the
object in question through his spectacles with some interest; 'I
rather think it belongs to Bob.'
The impression was perfectly accurate; for Mr. Bob Sawyer,
having attached the case-bottle to the end of the walking-stick,
was battering the window with it, in token of his wish, that his
friends inside would partake of its contents, in all good-fellowship
'What's to be done?' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at the bottle.
'This proceeding is more absurd than the other.'
'I think it would be best to take it in,' replied Mr. Ben Allen;
'it would serve him right to take it in and keep it, wouldn't it?'
'It would,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'shall I?'
'I think it the most proper course we could possibly adopt,'
This advice quite coinciding with his own opinion, Mr. Pickwick
gently let down the window and disengaged the bottle from
the stick; upon which the latter was drawn up, and Mr. Bob
Sawyer was heard to laugh heartily.
'What a merry dog it is!' said Mr. Pickwick, looking round at
his companion, with the bottle in his hand.
'He is,' said Mr. Allen.
'You cannot possibly be angry with him,' remarked Mr. Pickwick.
'Quite out of the question,' observed Benjamin Allen.
During this short interchange of sentiments, Mr. Pickwick
had, in an abstracted mood, uncorked the bottle.
'What is it?' inquired Ben Allen carelessly.
'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick, with equal carelessness.
'It smells, I think, like milk-punch.'
'Oh, indeed?' said Ben.
'I THINK so,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, very properly guarding
himself against the possibility of stating an untruth; 'mind, I
could not undertake to say certainly, without tasting it.'
'You had better do so,' said Ben; 'we may as well know what
'Do you think so?' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Well; if you are
curious to know, of course I have no objection.'
Ever willing to sacrifice his own feelings to the wishes of his
friend, Mr. Pickwick at once took a pretty long taste.
'What is it?' inquired Ben Allen, interrupting him with some
'Curious,' said Mr. Pickwick, smacking his lips, 'I hardly
know, now. Oh, yes!' said Mr. Pickwick, after a second taste.
'It IS punch.'
Mr. Ben Allen looked at Mr. Pickwick; Mr. Pickwick looked
at Mr. Ben Allen; Mr. Ben Allen smiled; Mr. Pickwick did not.
'It would serve him right,' said the last-named gentleman, with
some severity--'it would serve him right to drink it every drop.'
'The very thing that occurred to me,' said Ben Allen.
'Is it, indeed?' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'Then here's his
health!' With these words, that excellent person took a most
energetic pull at the bottle, and handed it to Ben Allen, who was
not slow to imitate his example. The smiles became mutual, and
the milk-punch was gradually and cheerfully disposed of.
'After all,' said Mr. Pickwick, as he drained the last drop, 'his
pranks are really very amusing; very entertaining indeed.'
'You may say that,' rejoined Mr. Ben Allen. In proof of Bob
Sawyer's being one of the funniest fellows alive, he proceeded to
entertain Mr. Pickwick with a long and circumstantial account
how that gentleman once drank himself into a fever and got his
head shaved; the relation of which pleasant and agreeable
history was only stopped by the stoppage of the chaise at the
Bell at Berkeley Heath, to change horses.
'I say! We're going to dine here, aren't we?' said Bob, looking
in at the window.
'Dine!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why, we have only come nineteen
miles, and have eighty-seven and a half to go.'
'Just the reason why we should take something to enable us to
bear up against the fatigue,' remonstrated Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'Oh, it's quite impossible to dine at half-past eleven o'clock in
the day,' replied Mr. Pickwick, looking at his watch.
'So it is,' rejoined Bob, 'lunch is the very thing. Hollo, you sir!
Lunch for three, directly; and keep the horses back for a quarter
of an hour. Tell them to put everything they have cold, on the
table, and some bottled ale, and let us taste your very best
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