The Pickwick Papers
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Mr. WELLER THE ELDER DELIVERS SOME CRITICAL SENTIMENTS
RESPECTING LITERARY COMPOSITION; AND,
ASSISTED BY HIS SON SAMUEL, PAYS A SMALL INSTALMENT
OF RETALIATION TO THE ACCOUNT OF THE REVEREND
GENTLEMAN WITH THE RED NOSE
The morning of the thirteenth of February, which the readers of
this authentic narrative know, as well as we do, to have been the day
immediately preceding that which was appointed for the trial of
Mrs. Bardell's action, was a busy time for Mr. Samuel Weller, who
was perpetually engaged in travelling from the George and Vulture to
Mr. Perker's chambers and back again, from and between the hours
of nine o'clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, both
inclusive. Not that there was anything whatever to be done, for the
consultation had taken place, and the course of proceeding to be
adopted, had been finally determined on; but Mr. Pickwick being in
a most extreme state of excitement, persevered in constantly
sending small notes to his attorney, merely containing the inquiry,
'Dear Perker. Is all going on well?' to which Mr. Perker
invariably forwarded the reply, 'Dear Pickwick. As well as
possible'; the fact being, as we have already hinted, that there
was nothing whatever to go on, either well or ill, until the
sitting of the court on the following morning.
But people who go voluntarily to law, or are taken forcibly
there, for the first time, may be allowed to labour under some
temporary irritation and anxiety; and Sam, with a due allowance
for the frailties of human nature, obeyed all his master's behests
with that imperturbable good-humour and unruffable composure
which formed one of his most striking and amiable characteristics.
Sam had solaced himself with a most agreeable little dinner,
and was waiting at the bar for the glass of warm mixture in which
Mr. Pickwick had requested him to drown the fatigues of his
morning's walks, when a young boy of about three feet high, or
thereabouts, in a hairy cap and fustian overalls, whose garb
bespoke a laudable ambition to attain in time the elevation of
an hostler, entered the passage of the George and Vulture, and
looked first up the stairs, and then along the passage, and then
into the bar, as if in search of somebody to whom he bore a
commission; whereupon the barmaid, conceiving it not
improbable that the said commission might be directed to the tea or
table spoons of the establishment, accosted the boy with--
'Now, young man, what do you want?'
'Is there anybody here, named Sam?' inquired the youth, in a
loud voice of treble quality.
'What's the t'other name?' said Sam Weller, looking round.
'How should I know?' briskly replied the young gentleman
below the hairy cap.
'You're a sharp boy, you are,' said Mr. Weller; 'only I
wouldn't show that wery fine edge too much, if I was you, in case
anybody took it off. What do you mean by comin' to a hot-el,
and asking arter Sam, vith as much politeness as a vild Indian?'
''Cos an old gen'l'm'n told me to,' replied the boy.
'What old gen'l'm'n?' inquired Sam, with deep disdain.
'Him as drives a Ipswich coach, and uses our parlour,' rejoined
the boy. 'He told me yesterday mornin' to come to the George
and Wultur this arternoon, and ask for Sam.'
'It's my father, my dear,' said Mr. Weller, turning with an
explanatory air to the young lady in the bar; 'blessed if I think
he hardly knows wot my other name is. Well, young brockiley
sprout, wot then?'
'Why then,' said the boy, 'you was to come to him at six
o'clock to our 'ouse, 'cos he wants to see you--Blue Boar,
Leaden'all Markit. Shall I say you're comin'?'
'You may wenture on that 'ere statement, Sir,' replied Sam.
And thus empowered, the young gentleman walked away,
awakening all the echoes in George Yard as he did so, with
several chaste and extremely correct imitations of a drover's
whistle, delivered in a tone of peculiar richness and volume.
Mr. Weller having obtained leave of absence from Mr. Pickwick,
who, in his then state of excitement and worry, was by no
means displeased at being left alone, set forth, long before the
appointed hour, and having plenty of time at his disposal,
sauntered down as far as the Mansion House, where he paused
and contemplated, with a face of great calmness and philosophy,
the numerous cads and drivers of short stages who assemble near
that famous place of resort, to the great terror and confusion of
the old-lady population of these realms. Having loitered here, for
half an hour or so, Mr. Weller turned, and began wending his
way towards Leadenhall Market, through a variety of by-streets
and courts. As he was sauntering away his spare time, and
stopped to look at almost every object that met his gaze, it is by
no means surprising that Mr. Weller should have paused before
a small stationer's and print-seller's window; but without further
explanation it does appear surprising that his eyes should have
no sooner rested on certain pictures which were exposed for sale
therein, than he gave a sudden start, smote his right leg with
great vehemence, and exclaimed, with energy, 'if it hadn't been
for this, I should ha' forgot all about it, till it was too late!'
The particular picture on which Sam Weller's eyes were fixed,
as he said this, was a highly-coloured representation of a couple
of human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking
before a cheerful fire, while a male and female cannibal in
modern attire, the gentleman being clad in a blue coat and white
trousers, and the lady in a deep red pelisse with a parasol of the
same, were approaching the meal with hungry eyes, up a serpentine
gravel path leading thereunto. A decidedly indelicate young
gentleman, in a pair of wings and nothing else, was depicted as
superintending the cooking; a representation of the spire of the
church in Langham Place, London, appeared in the distance;
and the whole formed a 'valentine,' of which, as a written
inscription in the window testified, there was a large assortment
within, which the shopkeeper pledged himself to dispose of, to his
countrymen generally, at the reduced rate of one-and-sixpence each.
'I should ha' forgot it; I should certainly ha' forgot it!' said
Sam; so saying, he at once stepped into the stationer's shop, and
requested to be served with a sheet of the best gilt-edged letter-
paper, and a hard-nibbed pen which could be warranted not to
splutter. These articles having been promptly supplied, he
walked on direct towards Leadenhall Market at a good round
pace, very different from his recent lingering one. Looking round
him, he there beheld a signboard on which the painter's art had
delineated something remotely resembling a cerulean elephant
with an aquiline nose in lieu of trunk. Rightly conjecturing that
this was the Blue Boar himself, he stepped into the house, and
inquired concerning his parent.
'He won't be here this three-quarters of an hour or more,' said
the young lady who superintended the domestic arrangements of
the Blue Boar.
'Wery good, my dear,' replied Sam. 'Let me have nine-
penn'oth o' brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, will you, miss?'
The brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, having been
carried into the little parlour, and the young lady having carefully
flattened down the coals to prevent their blazing, and carried
away the poker to preclude the possibility of the fire being stirred,
without the full privity and concurrence of the Blue Boar being
first had and obtained, Sam Weller sat himself down in a box
near the stove, and pulled out the sheet of gilt-edged letter-paper,
and the hard-nibbed pen. Then looking carefully at the pen to
see that there were no hairs in it, and dusting down the table, so
that there might be no crumbs of bread under the paper, Sam
tucked up the cuffs of his coat, squared his elbows, and composed
himself to write.
To ladies and gentlemen who are not in the habit of devoting
themselves practically to the science of penmanship, writing a
letter is no very easy task; it being always considered necessary
in such cases for the writer to recline his head on his left arm, so
as to place his eyes as nearly as possible on a level with the paper,
and, while glancing sideways at the letters he is constructing, to
form with his tongue imaginary characters to correspond. These
motions, although unquestionably of the greatest assistance to
original composition, retard in some degree the progress of the
writer; and Sam had unconsciously been a full hour and a half
writing words in small text, smearing out wrong letters with his
little finger, and putting in new ones which required going over
very often to render them visible through the old blots, when he
was roused by the opening of the door and the entrance of his parent.
'Vell, Sammy,' said the father.
'Vell, my Prooshan Blue,' responded the son, laying down his
pen. 'What's the last bulletin about mother-in-law?'
'Mrs. Veller passed a very good night, but is uncommon
perwerse, and unpleasant this mornin'. Signed upon oath, Tony
Veller, Esquire. That's the last vun as was issued, Sammy,'
replied Mr. Weller, untying his shawl.
'No better yet?' inquired Sam.
'All the symptoms aggerawated,' replied Mr. Weller, shaking
his head. 'But wot's that, you're a-doin' of? Pursuit of knowledge
under difficulties, Sammy?'
'I've done now,' said Sam, with slight embarrassment; 'I've
'So I see,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Not to any young 'ooman, I
'Why, it's no use a-sayin' it ain't,' replied Sam; 'it's a walentine.'
'A what!' exclaimed Mr. Weller, apparently horror-stricken
by the word.
'A walentine,' replied Sam.
'Samivel, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, in reproachful accents, 'I
didn't think you'd ha' done it. Arter the warnin' you've had o'
your father's wicious propensities; arter all I've said to you upon
this here wery subject; arter actiwally seein' and bein' in the
company o' your own mother-in-law, vich I should ha' thought