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
'Row!' replied the cabman, 'what did he want my number for?'
'I didn't want your number,' said the astonished Mr. Pickwick.
'What did you take it for, then?' inquired the cabman.
'I didn't take it,' said Mr. Pickwick indignantly.
'Would anybody believe,' continued the cab-driver, appealing
to the crowd, 'would anybody believe as an informer'ud go about
in a man's cab, not only takin' down his number, but ev'ry word
he says into the bargain' (a light flashed upon Mr. Pickwick--it
was the note-book).
'Did he though?' inquired another cabman.
'Yes, did he,' replied the first; 'and then arter aggerawatin' me
to assault him, gets three witnesses here to prove it. But I'll give it
him, if I've six months for it. Come on!' and the cabman dashed
his hat upon the ground, with a reckless disregard of his own
private property, and knocked Mr. Pickwick's spectacles off, and
followed up the attack with a blow on Mr. Pickwick's nose, and
another on Mr. Pickwick's chest, and a third in Mr. Snodgrass's
eye, and a fourth, by way of variety, in Mr. Tupman's waistcoat,
and then danced into the road, and then back again to the pavement,
and finally dashed the whole temporary supply of breath
out of Mr. Winkle's body; and all in half a dozen seconds.
'Where's an officer?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Put 'em under the pump,' suggested a hot-pieman.
'You shall smart for this,' gasped Mr. Pickwick.
'Informers!' shouted the crowd.
'Come on,' cried the cabman, who had been sparring without
cessation the whole time.
The mob hitherto had been passive spectators of the scene, but
as the intelligence of the Pickwickians being informers was spread
among them, they began to canvass with considerable vivacity
the propriety of enforcing the heated pastry-vendor's proposition:
and there is no saying what acts of personal aggression they
might have committed, had not the affray been unexpectedly
terminated by the interposition of a new-comer.
'What's the fun?' said a rather tall, thin, young man, in a green
coat, emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.
'informers!' shouted the crowd again.
'We are not,' roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to any
dispassionate listener, carried conviction with it.
'Ain't you, though--ain't you?' said the young man, appealing
to Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by the
infallible process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.
That learned man in a few hurried words explained the real
state of the case.
'Come along, then,' said he of the green coat, lugging Mr.
Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way.
Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off--respectable
gentleman--know him well--none of your nonsense--this way,
sir--where's your friends?--all a mistake, I see--never mind--
accidents will happen--best regulated families--never say die--
down upon your luck--Pull him UP--Put that in his pipe--like
the flavour--damned rascals.' And with a lengthened string of
similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility,
the stranger led the way to the traveller's waiting-room, whither
he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.
'Here, waiter!' shouted the stranger, ringing the bell with
tremendous violence, 'glasses round--brandy-and-water, hot and
strong, and sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, Sir? Waiter! raw
beef-steak for the gentleman's eye--nothing like raw beef-steak
for a bruise, sir; cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post
inconvenient--damned odd standing in the open street half an
hour, with your eye against a lamp-post--eh,--very good--
ha! ha!' And the stranger, without stopping to take breath,
swallowed at a draught full half a pint of the reeking brandy-and-
water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as if
nothing uncommon had occurred.
While his three companions were busily engaged in proffering
their thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisure
to examine his costume and appearance.
He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body,
and the length of his legs, gave him the appearance of being
much taller. The green coat had been a smart dress garment in the
days of swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorned
a much shorter man than the stranger, for the soiled and faded
sleeves scarcely reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely up
to his chin, at the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and an
old stock, without a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck.
His scanty black trousers displayed here and there those shiny
patches which bespeak long service, and were strapped very
tightly over a pair of patched and mended shoes, as if to conceal
the dirty white stockings, which were nevertheless distinctly
visible. His long, black hair escaped in negligent waves from
beneath each side of his old pinched-up hat; and glimpses of his
bare wrists might be observed between the tops of his gloves and
the cuffs of his coat sleeves. His face was thin and haggard; but
an indescribable air of jaunty impudence and perfect self-
possession pervaded the whole man.
Such was the individual on whom Mr. Pickwick gazed through
his spectacles (which he had fortunately recovered), and to whom
he proceeded, when his friends had exhausted themselves, to
return in chosen terms his warmest thanks for his recent assistance.
'Never mind,' said the stranger, cutting the address very short,
'said enough--no more; smart chap that cabman--handled
his fives well; but if I'd been your friend in the green jemmy--
damn me--punch his head,--'cod I would,--pig's whisper--
pieman too,--no gammon.'
This coherent speech was interrupted by the entrance of the
Rochester coachman, to announce that 'the Commodore' was on
the point of starting.
'Commodore!' said the stranger, starting up, 'my coach--
place booked,--one outside--leave you to pay for the brandy-
and-water,--want change for a five,--bad silver--Brummagem
buttons--won't do--no go--eh?' and he shook his head most knowingly.
Now it so happened that Mr. Pickwick and his three
companions had resolved to make Rochester their first halting-place
too; and having intimated to their new-found acquaintance that
they were journeying to the same city, they agreed to occupy the
seat at the back of the coach, where they could all sit together.
'Up with you,' said the stranger, assisting Mr. Pickwick on to
the roof with so much precipitation as to impair the gravity of
that gentleman's deportment very materially.
'Any luggage, Sir?' inquired the coachman.
'Who--I? Brown paper parcel here, that's all--other luggage
gone by water--packing-cases, nailed up--big as houses--
heavy, heavy, damned heavy,' replied the stranger, as he forced
into his pocket as much as he could of the brown paper parcel,
which presented most suspicious indications of containing one
shirt and a handkerchief.
'Heads, heads--take care of your heads!' cried the loquacious
stranger, as they came out under the low archway, which in those
days formed the entrance to the coach-yard. 'Terrible place--
dangerous work--other day--five children--mother--tall lady,
eating sandwiches--forgot the arch--crash--knock--children
look round--mother's head off--sandwich in her hand--no
mouth to put it in--head of a family off--shocking, shocking!
Looking at Whitehall, sir?--fine place--little window--somebody
else's head off there, eh, sir?--he didn't keep a sharp
look-out enough either--eh, Sir, eh?'
'I am ruminating,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'on the strange
mutability of human affairs.'
'Ah! I see--in at the palace door one day, out at the window
the next. Philosopher, Sir?'
'An observer of human nature, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah, so am I. Most people are when they've little to do and less
to get. Poet, Sir?'
'My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a strong poetic turn,' said
'So have I,' said the stranger. 'Epic poem--ten thousand lines
--revolution of July--composed it on the spot--Mars by day,
Apollo by night--bang the field-piece, twang the lyre.'
'You were present at that glorious scene, sir?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Present! think I was;* fired a musket--fired with an idea--
rushed into wine shop--wrote it down--back again--whiz, bang
--another idea--wine shop again--pen and ink--back again--
cut and slash--noble time, Sir. Sportsman, sir ?'abruptly turning
to Mr. Winkle.
[* A remarkable instance of the prophetic force of Mr.
Jingle's imagination; this dialogue occurring in the year
1827, and the Revolution in 1830.
'A little, Sir,' replied that gentleman.
'Fine pursuit, sir--fine pursuit.--Dogs, Sir?'
'Not just now,' said Mr. Winkle.
'Ah! you should keep dogs--fine animals--sagacious creatures
--dog of my own once--pointer--surprising instinct--out
shooting one day--entering inclosure--whistled--dog stopped--
whistled again--Ponto--no go; stock still--called him--Ponto,
Ponto--wouldn't move--dog transfixed--staring at a board--
looked up, saw an inscription--"Gamekeeper has orders to shoot
all dogs found in this inclosure"--wouldn't pass it--wonderful
dog--valuable dog that--very.'
'Singular circumstance that,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Will you