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.
‘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!’