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Chapter 12 Descriptive of a very important Proceeding on the Part of Mr. Pickwick; no less an Epoch in his Life, than in this History

  • Mr. Pickwick’s apartments in Goswell Street, although on a limited scale, wer_ot only of a very neat and comfortable description, but peculiarly adapte_or the residence of a man of his genius and observation. His sitting–room wa_he first–floor front, his bedroom the second–floor front; and thus, whethe_e were sitting at his desk in his parlour, or standing before th_ressing–glass in his dormitory, he had an equal opportunity of contemplatin_uman nature in all the numerous phases it exhibits, in that not more populou_han popular thoroughfare. His landlady, Mrs. Bardell—the relict and sol_xecutrix of a deceased custom–house officer—was a comely woman of bustlin_anners and agreeable appearance, with a natural genius for cooking, improve_y study and long practice, into an exquisite talent. There were no children, no servants, no fowls. The only other inmates of the house were a large ma_nd a small boy; the first a lodger, the second a production of Mrs.
  • Bardell’s. The large man was always home precisely at ten o’clock at night, a_hich hour he regularly condensed himself into the limits of a dwarfish Frenc_edstead in the back parlour; and the infantine sports and gymnastic exercise_f Master Bardell were exclusively confined to the neighbouring pavements an_utters. Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house; and in it Mr.
  • Pickwick’s will was law.
  • To any one acquainted with these points of the domestic economy of th_stablishment, and conversant with the admirable regulation of Mr. Pickwick’_ind, his appearance and behaviour on the morning previous to that which ha_een fixed upon for the journey to Eatanswill would have been most mysteriou_nd unaccountable. He paced the room to and fro with hurried steps, popped hi_ead out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each, constantl_eferred to his watch, and exhibited many other manifestations of impatienc_ery unusual with him. It was evident that something of great importance wa_n contemplation, but what that something was, not even Mrs. Bardell had bee_nabled to discover.
  • ‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at last, as that amiable female approache_he termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment.
  • ‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell.
  • ‘Your little boy is a very long time gone.’
  • ‘Why it’s a good long way to the Borough, sir,’ remonstrated Mrs. Bardell.
  • ‘Ah,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘very true; so it is.’ Mr. Pickwick relapsed int_ilence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her dusting.
  • ‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.
  • ‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell again. ‘Do you think it a much greater expense t_eep two people, than to keep one?’
  • ‘La, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very border of he_ap, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eye_f her lodger; ‘La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!’
  • ‘Well, but do you?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘That depends,’ said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to Mr.
  • Pickwick’s elbow which was planted on the table. ‘that depends a good dea_pon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it’s a saving and carefu_erson, sir.’
  • ‘That’s very true,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘but the person I have in my eye (her_e looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; an_as, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal o_harpness, Mrs. Bardell, which may be of material use to me.’
  • ‘La, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to her cap–borde_gain.
  • ‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of _ubject which interested him—‘I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs.
  • Bardell, I have made up my mind.’
  • ‘Dear me, sir,‘exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.
  • ‘You’ll think it very strange now,’ said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with _ood–humoured glance at his companion, ‘that I never consulted you about thi_atter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little boy out thi_orning—eh?’
  • Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr. Pickwic_t a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to whic_er wildest and most extravagant hopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwic_as going to propose—a deliberate plan, too—sent her little boy to th_orough, to get him out of the way—how thoughtful—how considerate!
  • ‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what do you think?’
  • ‘Oh, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, ‘you’re ver_ind, sir.’
  • ‘It’ll save you a good deal of trouble, won’t it?’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Oh, _ever thought anything of the trouble, sir,’ replied Mrs. Bardell; ‘and, o_ourse, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is s_ind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.’
  • ‘Ah, to be sure,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I never thought of that. When I am i_own, you’ll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so you will.’
  • ‘I am sure I ought to be a very happy woman,’ said Mrs. Bardell.
  • ‘And your little boy—’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Bless his heart!’ interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.
  • ‘He, too, will have a companion,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘a lively one, who’l_each him, I’ll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in _ear.’ And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.
  • ‘Oh, you dear—’ said Mrs. Bardell.
  • Mr. Pickwick started.
  • ‘Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,’ said Mrs. Bardell; and without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick’s neck, with _ataract of tears and a chorus of sobs.
  • ‘Bless my soul,’ cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick; ‘Mrs. Bardell, my goo_oman—dear me, what a situation—pray consider.—Mrs. Bardell, don’t—if anybod_hould come—’
  • ‘Oh, let them come,’ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically; ‘I’ll never leav_ou—dear, kind, good soul;’ and, with these words, Mrs. Bardell clung th_ighter.
  • ‘Mercy upon me,’ said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, ‘I hear somebod_oming up the stairs. Don’t, don’t, there’s a good creature, don’t.’ Bu_ntreaty and remonstrance were alike unavailing; for Mrs. Bardell had fainte_n Mr. Pickwick’s arms; and before he could gain time to deposit her on _hair, Master Bardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.
  • Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless. He stood with his lovel_urden in his arms, gazing vacantly on the countenances of his friends, without the slightest attempt at recognition or explanation. They, in thei_urn, stared at him; and Master Bardell, in his turn, stared at everybody.
  • The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, and the perplexity o_r. Pickwick was so extreme, that they might have remained in exactly the sam_elative situations until the suspended animation of the lady was restored, had it not been for a most beautiful and touching expression of filia_ffection on the part of her youthful son. Clad in a tight suit of corduroy, spangled with brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at first stood a_he door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, the impression that hi_other must have suffered some personal damage pervaded his partiall_eveloped mind, and considering Mr. Pickwick as the aggressor, he set up a_ppalling and semi–earthly kind of howling, and butting forward with his head, commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the back and legs, with suc_lows and pinches as the strength of his arm, and the violence of hi_xcitement, allowed.
  • ‘Take this little villain away,’ said the agonised Mr. Pickwick, ‘he’s mad.’
  • ‘What is the matter?’ said the three tongue–tied Pickwickians.
  • ‘I don’t know,’ replied Mr. Pickwick pettishly. ‘Take away the boy.’ (Here Mr.
  • Winkle carried the interesting boy, screaming and struggling, to the farthe_nd of the apartment.) ‘Now help me, lead this woman downstairs.’
  • ‘Oh, I am better now,’ said Mrs. Bardell faintly.
  • ‘Let me lead you downstairs,’ said the ever–gallant Mr. Tupman.
  • ‘Thank you, sir—thank you;’ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically. An_ownstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her affectionate son.
  • ‘I cannot conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick when his friend returned—‘I canno_onceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had merely announced t_er my intention of keeping a man–servant, when she fell into th_xtraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.’
  • ‘Very,’ said his three friends.
  • ‘Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,’ continued Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Very,’ was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and looke_ubiously at each other.
  • This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their incredulity.
  • They evidently suspected him.
  • ‘There is a man in the passage now,’ said Mr. Tupman.
  • ‘It’s the man I spoke to you about,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I sent for him to th_orough this morning. Have the goodness to call him up, Snodgrass.’
  • Mr. Snodgrass did as he was desired; and Mr. Samuel Weller forthwith presente_imself.
  • ‘Oh—you remember me, I suppose?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘I should think so,’ replied Sam, with a patronising wink. ‘Queer start that ‘ere, but he was one too many for you, warn’t he? Up to snuff and a pinch o_wo over—eh?’
  • ‘Never mind that matter now,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily; ‘I want to speak t_ou about something else. Sit down.’
  • ‘Thank’ee, sir,’ said Sam. And down he sat without further bidding, havin_reviously deposited his old white hat on the landing outside the door.
  • ‘‘Tain’t a wery good ’un to look at,’ said Sam, ‘but it’s an astonishin’ ’u_o wear; and afore the brim went, it was a wery handsome tile. Hows’ever it’_ighter without it, that’s one thing, and every hole lets in some air, that’_nother—wentilation gossamer I calls it.’ On the delivery of this sentiment, Mr. Weller smiled agreeably upon the assembled Pickwickians.
  • ‘Now with regard to the matter on which I, with the concurrence of thes_entlemen, sent for you,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘That’s the pint, sir,’ interposed Sam; ‘out vith it, as the father said t_is child, when he swallowed a farden.’
  • ‘We want to know, in the first place,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘whether you hav_ny reason to be discontented with your present situation.’
  • ‘Afore I answers that ‘ere question, gen’l’m’n,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘I shoul_ike to know, in the first place, whether you’re a–goin’ to purwide me with _etter?’
  • A sunbeam of placid benevolence played on Mr. Pickwick’s features as he said, ‘I have half made up my mind to engage you myself.’
  • ‘Have you, though?’ said Sam.
  • Mr. Pickwick nodded in the affirmative.
  • ‘Wages?’ inquired Sam.
  • ‘Twelve pounds a year,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Clothes?’
  • ‘Two suits.’
  • ‘Work?’
  • ‘To attend upon me; and travel about with me and these gentlemen here.’ ‘Tak_he bill down,’ said Sam emphatically. ‘I’m let to a single gentleman, and th_erms is agreed upon.’
  • ‘You accept the situation?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick. ‘Cert’nly,’ replied Sam.
  • ‘If the clothes fits me half as well as the place, they’ll do.’
  • ‘You can get a character of course?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Ask the landlady o’ the White Hart about that, Sir,’ replied Sam.
  • ‘Can you come this evening?’
  • ‘I’ll get into the clothes this minute, if they’re here,’ said Sam, with grea_lacrity.
  • ‘Call at eight this evening,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘and if the inquiries ar_atisfactory, they shall be provided.’
  • With the single exception of one amiable indiscretion, in which an assistan_ousemaid had equally participated, the history of Mr. Weller’s conduct was s_ery blameless, that Mr. Pickwick felt fully justified in closing th_ngagement that very evening. With the promptness and energy whic_haracterised not only the public proceedings, but all the private actions o_his extraordinary man, he at once led his new attendant to one of thos_onvenient emporiums where gentlemen’s new and second–hand clothes ar_rovided, and the troublesome and inconvenient formality of measuremen_ispensed with; and before night had closed in, Mr. Weller was furnished wit_ grey coat with the P. C. button, a black hat with a cockade to it, a pin_triped waistcoat, light breeches and gaiters, and a variety of othe_ecessaries, too numerous to recapitulate.
  • ‘Well,’ said that suddenly–transformed individual, as he took his seat on th_utside of the Eatanswill coach next morning; ‘I wonder whether I’m meant t_e a footman, or a groom, or a gamekeeper, or a seedsman. I looks like a sor_f compo of every one on ’em. Never mind; there’s a change of air, plenty t_ee, and little to do; and all this suits my complaint uncommon; so long lif_o the Pickvicks, says I!’