The Pickwick Papers
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a very fair case indeed.'
'Do you mean that the patient is in a fair way to recover?'
inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'No,' replied Mr. Hopkins carelessly. 'No, I should rather say
he wouldn't. There must be a splendid operation, though,
to-morrow--magnificent sight if Slasher does it.'
'You consider Mr. Slasher a good operator?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Best alive,' replied Hopkins. 'Took a boy's leg out of the
socket last week--boy ate five apples and a gingerbread cake--
exactly two minutes after it was all over, boy said he wouldn't lie
there to be made game of, and he'd tell his mother if they didn't begin.'
'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick, astonished.
'Pooh! That's nothing, that ain't,' said Jack Hopkins. 'Is it, Bob?'
'Nothing at all,' replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'By the bye, Bob,' said Hopkins, with a scarcely perceptible
glance at Mr. Pickwick's attentive face, 'we had a curious
accident last night. A child was brought in, who had swallowed a
'Swallowed what, Sir?' interrupted Mr. Pickwick.
'A necklace,' replied Jack Hopkins. 'Not all at once, you know,
that would be too much--you couldn't swallow that, if the child
did--eh, Mr. Pickwick? ha, ha!' Mr. Hopkins appeared highly
gratified with his own pleasantry, and continued--'No, the way
was this. Child's parents were poor people who lived in a court.
Child's eldest sister bought a necklace--common necklace, made
of large black wooden beads. Child being fond of toys, cribbed
the necklace, hid it, played with it, cut the string, and swallowed
a bead. Child thought it capital fun, went back next day, and
swallowed another bead.'
'Bless my heart,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what a dreadful thing! I
beg your pardon, Sir. Go on.'
'Next day, child swallowed two beads; the day after that, he
treated himself to three, and so on, till in a week's time he had
got through the necklace--five-and-twenty beads in all. The
sister, who was an industrious girl, and seldom treated herself to
a bit of finery, cried her eyes out, at the loss of the necklace;
looked high and low for it; but, I needn't say, didn't find it. A
few days afterwards, the family were at dinner--baked shoulder
of mutton, and potatoes under it--the child, who wasn't hungry,
was playing about the room, when suddenly there was heard a
devil of a noise, like a small hailstorm. "Don't do that, my boy,"
said the father. "I ain't a-doin' nothing," said the child. "Well,
don't do it again," said the father. There was a short silence, and
then the noise began again, worse than ever. "If you don't mind
what I say, my boy," said the father, "you'll find yourself in bed,
in something less than a pig's whisper." He gave the child a
shake to make him obedient, and such a rattling ensued as
nobody ever heard before. "Why, damme, it's IN the child!" said
the father, "he's got the croup in the wrong place!" "No, I
haven't, father," said the child, beginning to cry, "it's the necklace;
I swallowed it, father."--The father caught the child up,
and ran with him to the hospital; the beads in the boy's stomach
rattling all the way with the jolting; and the people looking up in
the air, and down in the cellars, to see where the unusual sound
came from. He's in the hospital now,' said Jack Hopkins, 'and he
makes such a devil of a noise when he walks about, that they're
obliged to muffle him in a watchman's coat, for fear he should
wake the patients.'
'That's the most extraordinary case I ever heard of,' said
Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on the table.
'Oh, that's nothing,' said Jack Hopkins. 'Is it, Bob?'
'Certainly not,' replied Bob Sawyer.
'Very singular things occur in our profession, I can assure you,
Sir,' said Hopkins.
'So I should be disposed to imagine,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
Another knock at the door announced a large-headed young
man in a black wig, who brought with him a scorbutic youth in a
long stock. The next comer was a gentleman in a shirt emblazoned
with pink anchors, who was closely followed by a pale youth with
a plated watchguard. The arrival of a prim personage in clean
linen and cloth boots rendered the party complete. The little
table with the green baize cover was wheeled out; the first
instalment of punch was brought in, in a white jug; and the
succeeding three hours were devoted to VINGT-ET-UN at sixpence a
dozen, which was only once interrupted by a slight dispute
between the scorbutic youth and the gentleman with the pink
anchors; in the course of which, the scorbutic youth intimated a
burning desire to pull the nose of the gentleman with the emblems
of hope; in reply to which, that individual expressed his decided
unwillingness to accept of any 'sauce' on gratuitous terms, either
from the irascible young gentleman with the scorbutic countenance,
or any other person who was ornamented with a head.
When the last 'natural' had been declared, and the profit and
loss account of fish and sixpences adjusted, to the satisfaction of
all parties, Mr. Bob Sawyer rang for supper, and the visitors
squeezed themselves into corners while it was getting ready.
it was not so easily got ready as some people may imagine.
First of all, it was necessary to awaken the girl, who had fallen
asleep with her face on the kitchen table; this took a little time,
and, even when she did answer the bell, another quarter of an
hour was consumed in fruitless endeavours to impart to her a
faint and distant glimmering of reason. The man to whom the
order for the oysters had been sent, had not been told to open
them; it is a very difficult thing to open an oyster with a limp
knife and a two-pronged fork; and very little was done in this
way. Very little of the beef was done either; and the ham (which
was also from the German-sausage shop round the corner) was
in a similar predicament. However, there was plenty of porter in
a tin can; and the cheese went a great way, for it was very strong.
So upon the whole, perhaps, the supper was quite as good as such
matters usually are.
After supper, another jug of punch was put upon the table,
together with a paper of cigars, and a couple of bottles of spirits.
Then there was an awful pause; and this awful pause was
occasioned by a very common occurrence in this sort of place,
but a very embarrassing one notwithstanding.
The fact is, the girl was washing the glasses. The establishment
boasted four: we do not record the circumstance as at all
derogatory to Mrs. Raddle, for there never was a lodging-house
yet, that was not short of glasses. The landlady's glasses were
little, thin, blown-glass tumblers, and those which had been
borrowed from the public-house were great, dropsical, bloated
articles, each supported on a huge gouty leg. This would have
been in itself sufficient to have possessed the company with the
real state of affairs; but the young woman of all work had
prevented the possibility of any misconception arising in the
mind of any gentleman upon the subject, by forcibly dragging
every man's glass away, long before he had finished his beer, and
audibly stating, despite the winks and interruptions of Mr. Bob
Sawyer, that it was to be conveyed downstairs, and washed forthwith.
It is a very ill wind that blows nobody any good. The prim
man in the cloth boots, who had been unsuccessfully attempting
to make a joke during the whole time the round game lasted,
saw his opportunity, and availed himself of it. The instant the
glasses disappeared, he commenced a long story about a great
public character, whose name he had forgotten, making a particularly
happy reply to another eminent and illustrious individual
whom he had never been able to identify. He enlarged at some
length and with great minuteness upon divers collateral circumstances,
distantly connected with the anecdote in hand, but for
the life of him he couldn't recollect at that precise moment what
the anecdote was, although he had been in the habit of telling the
story with great applause for the last ten years.
'Dear me,' said the prim man in the cloth boots, 'it is a very
'I am sorry you have forgotten it,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer,
glancing eagerly at the door, as he thought he heard the noise of
glasses jingling; 'very sorry.'
'So am I,' responded the prim man, 'because I know it would
have afforded so much amusement. Never mind; I dare say I
shall manage to recollect it, in the course of half an hour or so.'
The prim man arrived at this point just as the glasses came
back, when Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been absorbed in attention
during the whole time, said he should very much like to hear the
end of it, for, so far as it went, it was, without exception, the very
best story he had ever heard.
The sight of the tumblers restored Bob Sawyer to a degree of
equanimity which he had not possessed since his interview with his
landlady. His face brightened up, and he began to feel quite convivial.
'Now, Betsy,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with great suavity, and
dispersing, at the same time, the tumultuous little mob of glasses
the girl had collected in the centre of the table--'now, Betsy, the
warm water; be brisk, there's a good girl.'
'You can't have no warm water,' replied Betsy.
'No warm water!' exclaimed Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'No,' said the girl, with a shake of the head which expressed a
more decided negative than the most copious language could
have conveyed. 'Missis Raddle said you warn't to have none.'
The surprise depicted on the countenances of his guests
imparted new courage to the host.
'Bring up the warm water instantly--instantly!' said Mr. Bob
Sawyer, with desperate sternness.
'No. I can't,' replied the girl; 'Missis Raddle raked out the
kitchen fire afore she went to bed, and locked up the kittle.'
'Oh, never mind; never mind. Pray don't disturb yourself
about such a trifle,' said Mr. Pickwick, observing the conflict of
Bob Sawyer's passions, as depicted in his countenance, 'cold
water will do very well.'