The Pickwick Papers
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 Next page
Dowler, as the party isn't expected to be over till late; so I was
thinking that if you wanted nothing more, Mr. Pickwick, I
would go to bed.'
'By all means, ma'am,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Wish you good-night, Sir,' said Mrs. Craddock.
'Good-night, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick.
Mrs. Craddock closed the door, and Mr. Pickwick resumed his writing.
In half an hour's time the entries were concluded. Mr. Pickwick
carefully rubbed the last page on the blotting-paper, shut up the
book, wiped his pen on the bottom of the inside of his coat tail,
and opened the drawer of the inkstand to put it carefully away.
There were a couple of sheets of writing-paper, pretty closely
written over, in the inkstand drawer, and they were folded so,
that the title, which was in a good round hand, was fully disclosed
to him. Seeing from this, that it was no private document;
and as it seemed to relate to Bath, and was very short: Mr. Pick-
wick unfolded it, lighted his bedroom candle that it might burn
up well by the time he finished; and drawing his chair nearer the
fire, read as follows--
THE TRUE LEGEND OF PRINCE BLADUD
'Less than two hundred years ago, on one of the public baths
in this city, there appeared an inscription in honour of its mighty
founder, the renowned Prince Bladud. That inscription is now erased.
'For many hundred years before that time, there had been
handed down, from age to age, an old legend, that the illustrious
prince being afflicted with leprosy, on his return from reaping a
rich harvest of knowledge in Athens, shunned the court of his
royal father, and consorted moodily with husbandman and pigs.
Among the herd (so said the legend) was a pig of grave and
solemn countenance, with whom the prince had a fellow-feeling
--for he too was wise--a pig of thoughtful and reserved demeanour;
an animal superior to his fellows, whose grunt was
terrible, and whose bite was sharp. The young prince sighed
deeply as he looked upon the countenance of the majestic swine;
he thought of his royal father, and his eyes were bedewed with tears.
'This sagacious pig was fond of bathing in rich, moist mud.
Not in summer, as common pigs do now, to cool themselves,
and did even in those distant ages (which is a proof that the light
of civilisation had already begun to dawn, though feebly), but in
the cold, sharp days of winter. His coat was ever so sleek, and
his complexion so clear, that the prince resolved to essay the
purifying qualities of the same water that his friend resorted to.
He made the trial. Beneath that black mud, bubbled the hot
springs of Bath. He washed, and was cured. Hastening to his
father's court, he paid his best respects, and returning quickly
hither, founded this city and its famous baths.
'He sought the pig with all the ardour of their early friendship
--but, alas! the waters had been his death. He had imprudently
taken a bath at too high a temperature, and the natural philosopher
was no more! He was succeeded by Pliny, who also fell a
victim to his thirst for knowledge.
'This was the legend. Listen to the true one.
'A great many centuries since, there flourished, in great state,
the famous and renowned Lud Hudibras, king of Britain. He was
a mighty monarch. The earth shook when he walked--he was so
very stout. His people basked in the light of his countenance--it
was so red and glowing. He was, indeed, every inch a king. And
there were a good many inches of him, too, for although he was
not very tall, he was a remarkable size round, and the inches that
he wanted in height, he made up in circumference. If any
degenerate monarch of modern times could be in any way compared
with him, I should say the venerable King Cole would be
that illustrious potentate.
'This good king had a queen, who eighteen years before, had
had a son, who was called Bladud. He was sent to a preparatory
seminary in his father's dominions until he was ten years old, and
was then despatched, in charge of a trusty messenger, to a
finishing school at Athens; and as there was no extra charge for
remaining during the holidays, and no notice required previous
to the removal of a pupil, there he remained for eight long years,
at the expiration of which time, the king his father sent the lord
chamberlain over, to settle the bill, and to bring him home;
which, the lord chamberlain doing, was received with shouts, and
'When King Lud saw the prince his son, and found he had
grown up such a fine young man, he perceived what a grand
thing it would be to have him married without delay, so that his
children might be the means of perpetuating the glorious race of
Lud, down to the very latest ages of the world. With this view,
he sent a special embassy, composed of great noblemen who had
nothing particular to do, and wanted lucrative employment, to a
neighbouring king, and demanded his fair daughter in marriage
for his son; stating at the same time that he was anxious to be on
the most affectionate terms with his brother and friend, but that
if they couldn't agree in arranging this marriage, he should be
under the unpleasant necessity of invading his kingdom and
putting his eyes out. To this, the other king (who was the weaker
of the two) replied that he was very much obliged to his friend
and brother for all his goodness and magnanimity, and that his
daughter was quite ready to be married, whenever Prince Bladud
liked to come and fetch her.
'This answer no sooner reached Britain, than the whole nation
was transported with joy. Nothing was heard, on all sides, but
the sounds of feasting and revelry--except the chinking of money
as it was paid in by the people to the collector of the royal
treasures, to defray the expenses of the happy ceremony. It was
upon this occasion that King Lud, seated on the top of his throne
in full council, rose, in the exuberance of his feelings, and commanded
the lord chief justice to order in the richest wines and
the court minstrels--an act of graciousness which has been,
through the ignorance of traditionary historians, attributed to
King Cole, in those celebrated lines in which his Majesty is
Calling for his pipe, and calling for his pot,
And calling for his fiddlers three.
Which is an obvious injustice to the memory of King Lud, and
a dishonest exaltation of the virtues of King Cole.
'But, in the midst of all this festivity and rejoicing, there was
one individual present, who tasted not when the sparkling wines
were poured forth, and who danced not, when the minstrels
played. This was no other than Prince Bladud himself, in honour
of whose happiness a whole people were, at that very moment,
straining alike their throats and purse-strings. The truth was,
that the prince, forgetting the undoubted right of the minister for
foreign affairs to fall in love on his behalf, had, contrary to every
precedent of policy and diplomacy, already fallen in love on his
own account, and privately contracted himself unto the fair
daughter of a noble Athenian.
'Here we have a striking example of one of the manifold
advantages of civilisation and refinement. If the prince had lived
in later days, he might at once have married the object of his
father's choice, and then set himself seriously to work, to relieve
himself of the burden which rested heavily upon him. He might have
endeavoured to break her heart by a systematic course of insult and
neglect; or, if the spirit of her sex, and a proud consciousness
of her many wrongs had upheld her under this ill-treatment, he
might have sought to take her life, and so get rid of her effectually.
But neither mode of relief suggested itself to Prince Bladud; so he
solicited a private audience, and told his father.
'it is an old prerogative of kings to govern everything but their
passions. King Lud flew into a frightful rage, tossed his crown up
to the ceiling, and caught it again--for in those days kings kept
their crowns on their heads, and not in the Tower--stamped the
ground, rapped his forehead, wondered why his own flesh and
blood rebelled against him, and, finally, calling in his guards,
ordered the prince away to instant Confinement in a lofty turret;
a course of treatment which the kings of old very generally
pursued towards their sons, when their matrimonial inclinations
did not happen to point to the same quarter as their own.
'When Prince Bladud had been shut up in the lofty turret for
the greater part of a year, with no better prospect before his
bodily eyes than a stone wall, or before his mental vision than
prolonged imprisonment, he naturally began to ruminate on a
plan of escape, which, after months of preparation, he managed
to accomplish; considerately leaving his dinner-knife in the heart
of his jailer, lest the poor fellow (who had a family) should be
considered privy to his flight, and punished accordingly by the
'The monarch was frantic at the loss of his son. He knew not
on whom to vent his grief and wrath, until fortunately bethinking
himself of the lord chamberlain who had brought him home, he
struck off his pension and his head together.
'Meanwhile, the young prince, effectually disguised, wandered
on foot through his father's dominions, cheered and supported
in all his hardships by sweet thoughts of the Athenian maid, who
was the innocent cause of his weary trials. One day he stopped
to rest in a country village; and seeing that there were gay dances
going forward on the green, and gay faces passing to and fro,
ventured to inquire of a reveller who stood near him, the reason
for this rejoicing.
'"Know you not, O stranger," was the reply, "of the recent
proclamation of our gracious king?"
'"Proclamation! No. What proclamation?" rejoined the
prince--for he had travelled along the by and little-frequented
ways, and knew nothing of what had passed upon the public
roads, such as they were.
'"Why," replied the peasant, "the foreign lady that our prince
wished to wed, is married to a foreign noble of her own country,
and the king proclaims the fact, and a great public festival
besides; for now, of course, Prince Bladud will come back and
marry the lady his father chose, who they say is as beautiful as
the noonday sun. Your health, sir. God save the king!"
'The prince remained to hear no more. He fled from the spot,
and plunged into the thickest recesses of a neighbouring wood.