Chapter 17 Showing that an Attack of Rheumatism, in some Cases, acts as _uickener to inventive Genius
The constitution of Mr. Pickwick, though able to sustain a very considerabl_mount of exertion and fatigue, was not proof against such a combination o_ttacks as he had undergone on the memorable night, recorded in the las_hapter. The process of being washed in the night air, and rough–dried in _loset, is as dangerous as it is peculiar. Mr. Pickwick was laid up with a_ttack of rheumatism.
But although the bodily powers of the great man were thus impaired, his menta_nergies retained their pristine vigour. His spirits were elastic; hi_ood–humour was restored. Even the vexation consequent upon his recen_dventure had vanished from his mind; and he could join in the heart_aughter, which any allusion to it excited in Mr. Wardle, without anger an_ithout embarrassment. Nay, more. During the two days Mr. Pickwick wa_onfined to bed, Sam was his constant attendant. On the first, he endeavoure_o amuse his master by anecdote and conversation; on the second, Mr. Pickwic_emanded his writing–desk, and pen and ink, and was deeply engaged during th_hole day. On the third, being able to sit up in his bedchamber, he despatche_is valet with a message to Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle, intimating that i_hey would take their wine there, that evening, they would greatly oblige him.
The invitation was most willingly accepted; and when they were seated ove_heir wine, Mr. Pickwick, with sundry blushes, produced the following littl_ale, as having been ‘edited’ by himself, during his recent indisposition, from his notes of Mr. Weller’s unsophisticated recital.
**The Parish Clerk**
**A Tale Of True Love**
‘Once upon a time, in a very small country town, at a considerable distanc_rom London, there lived a little man named Nathaniel Pipkin, who was th_arish clerk of the little town, and lived in a little house in the littl_igh Street, within ten minutes’ walk from the little church; and who was t_e found every day, from nine till four, teaching a little learning to th_ittle boys. Nathaniel Pipkin was a harmless, inoffensive, good–natured being, with a turned–up nose, and rather turned–in legs, a cast in his eye, and _alt in his gait; and he divided his time between the church and his school, verily believing that there existed not, on the face of the earth, so clever _an as the curate, so imposing an apartment as the vestry–room, or s_ell–ordered a seminary as his own. Once, and only once, in his life, Nathaniel Pipkin had seen a bishop—a real bishop, with his arms in law_leeves, and his head in a wig. He had seen him walk, and heard him talk, at _onfirmation, on which momentous occasion Nathaniel Pipkin was so overcom_ith reverence and awe, when the aforesaid bishop laid his hand on his head, that he fainted right clean away, and was borne out of church in the arms o_he beadle.
‘This was a great event, a tremendous era, in Nathaniel Pipkin’s life, and i_as the only one that had ever occurred to ruffle the smooth current of hi_uiet existence, when happening one fine afternoon, in a fit of menta_bstraction, to raise his eyes from the slate on which he was devising som_remendous problem in compound addition for an offending urchin to solve, the_uddenly rested on the blooming countenance of Maria Lobbs, the only daughte_f old Lobbs, the great saddler over the way. Now, the eyes of Mr. Pipkin ha_ested on the pretty face of Maria Lobbs many a time and oft before, at churc_nd elsewhere; but the eyes of Maria Lobbs had never looked so bright, th_heeks of Maria Lobbs had never looked so ruddy, as upon this particula_ccasion. No wonder then, that Nathaniel Pipkin was unable to take his eye_rom the countenance of Miss Lobbs; no wonder that Miss Lobbs, finding hersel_tared at by a young man, withdrew her head from the window out of which sh_ad been peeping, and shut the casement and pulled down the blind; no wonde_hat Nathaniel Pipkin, immediately thereafter, fell upon the young urchin wh_ad previously offended, and cuffed and knocked him about to his heart’_ontent. All this was very natural, and there’s nothing at all to wonder a_bout it.
‘It is matter of wonder, though, that anyone of Mr. Nathaniel Pipkin’_etiring disposition, nervous temperament, and most particularly diminutiv_ncome, should from this day forth, have dared to aspire to the hand and hear_f the only daughter of the fiery old Lobbs—of old Lobbs, the great saddler, who could have bought up the whole village at one stroke of his pen, and neve_elt the outlay—old Lobbs, who was well known to have heaps of money, investe_n the bank at the nearest market town—who was reported to have countless an_nexhaustible treasures hoarded up in the little iron safe with the bi_eyhole, over the chimney–piece in the back parlour—and who, it was wel_nown, on festive occasions garnished his board with a real silver teapot, cream–ewer, and sugar–basin, which he was wont, in the pride of his heart, t_oast should be his daughter’s property when she found a man to her mind. _epeat it, to be matter of profound astonishment and intense wonder, tha_athaniel Pipkin should have had the temerity to cast his eyes in thi_irection. But love is blind; and Nathaniel had a cast in his eye; and perhap_hese two circumstances, taken together, prevented his seeing the matter i_ts proper light.
‘Now, if old Lobbs had entertained the most remote or distant idea of th_tate of the affections of Nathaniel Pipkin, he would just have razed th_chool–room to the ground, or exterminated its master from the surface of th_arth, or committed some other outrage and atrocity of an equally ferociou_nd violent description; for he was a terrible old fellow, was Lobbs, when hi_ride was injured, or his blood was up. Swear! Such trains of oaths would com_olling and pealing over the way, sometimes, when he was denouncing th_dleness of the bony apprentice with the thin legs, that Nathaniel Pipki_ould shake in his shoes with horror, and the hair of the pupils’ heads woul_tand on end with fright.
‘Well! Day after day, when school was over, and the pupils gone, did Nathanie_ipkin sit himself down at the front window, and, while he feigned to b_eading a book, throw sidelong glances over the way in search of the brigh_yes of Maria Lobbs; and he hadn’t sat there many days, before the bright eye_ppeared at an upper window, apparently deeply engaged in reading too. Thi_as delightful, and gladdening to the heart of Nathaniel Pipkin. It wa_omething to sit there for hours together, and look upon that pretty face whe_he eyes were cast down; but when Maria Lobbs began to raise her eyes from he_ook, and dart their rays in the direction of Nathaniel Pipkin, his deligh_nd admiration were perfectly boundless. At last, one day when he knew ol_obbs was out, Nathaniel Pipkin had the temerity to kiss his hand to Mari_obbs; and Maria Lobbs, instead of shutting the window, and pulling down th_lind, kissed hers to him, and smiled. Upon which Nathaniel Pipkin determined, that, come what might, he would develop the state of his feelings, withou_urther delay.
‘A prettier foot, a gayer heart, a more dimpled face, or a smarter form, neve_ounded so lightly over the earth they graced, as did those of Maria Lobbs, the old saddler’s daughter. There was a roguish twinkle in her sparkling eyes, that would have made its way to far less susceptible bosoms than that o_athaniel Pipkin; and there was such a joyous sound in her merry laugh, tha_he sternest misanthrope must have smiled to hear it. Even old Lobbs himself, in the very height of his ferocity, couldn’t resist the coaxing of his prett_aughter; and when she, and her cousin Kate—an arch, impudent–looking, bewitching little person—made a dead set upon the old man together, as, to sa_he truth, they very often did, he could have refused them nothing, even ha_hey asked for a portion of the countless and inexhaustible treasures, whic_ere hidden from the light, in the iron safe.
‘Nathaniel Pipkin’s heart beat high within him, when he saw this enticin_ittle couple some hundred yards before him one summer’s evening, in the ver_ield in which he had many a time strolled about till night–time, and pondere_n the beauty of Maria Lobbs. But though he had often thought then, ho_riskly he would walk up to Maria Lobbs and tell her of his passion if h_ould only meet her, he felt, now that she was unexpectedly before him, al_he blood in his body mounting to his face, manifestly to the great detrimen_f his legs, which, deprived of their usual portion, trembled beneath him.
When they stopped to gather a hedge flower, or listen to a bird, Nathanie_ipkin stopped too, and pretended to be absorbed in meditation, as indeed h_eally was; for he was thinking what on earth he should ever do, when the_urned back, as they inevitably must in time, and meet him face to face. Bu_hough he was afraid to make up to them, he couldn’t bear to lose sight o_hem; so when they walked faster he walked faster, when they lingered h_ingered, and when they stopped he stopped; and so they might have gone on, until the darkness prevented them, if Kate had not looked slyly back, an_ncouragingly beckoned Nathaniel to advance. There was something in Kate’_anner that was not to be resisted, and so Nathaniel Pipkin complied with th_nvitation; and after a great deal of blushing on his part, and immoderat_aughter on that of the wicked little cousin, Nathaniel Pipkin went down o_is knees on the dewy grass, and declared his resolution to remain there fo_ver, unless he were permitted to rise the accepted lover of Maria Lobbs. Upo_his, the merry laughter of Miss Lobbs rang through the calm evenin_ir—without seeming to disturb it, though; it had such a pleasant sound—an_he wicked little cousin laughed more immoderately than before, and Nathanie_ipkin blushed deeper than ever. At length, Maria Lobbs being more strenuousl_rged by the love–worn little man, turned away her head, and whispered he_ousin to say, or at all events Kate did say, that she felt much honoured b_r. Pipkin’s addresses; that her hand and heart were at her father’s disposal; but that nobody could be insensible to Mr. Pipkin’s merits. As all this wa_aid with much gravity, and as Nathaniel Pipkin walked home with Maria Lobbs, and struggled for a kiss at parting, he went to bed a happy man, and dreame_ll night long, of softening old Lobbs, opening the strong box, and marryin_aria.
The next day, Nathaniel Pipkin saw old Lobbs go out upon his old gray pony, and after a great many signs at the window from the wicked little cousin, th_bject and meaning of which he could by no means understand, the bon_pprentice with the thin legs came over to say that his master wasn’t comin_ome all night, and that the ladies expected Mr. Pipkin to tea, at six o’cloc_recisely. How the lessons were got through that day, neither Nathaniel Pipki_or his pupils knew any more than you do; but they were got through somehow, and, after the boys had gone, Nathaniel Pipkin took till full six o’clock t_ress himself to his satisfaction. Not that it took long to select th_arments he should wear, inasmuch as he had no choice about the matter; bu_he putting of them on to the best advantage, and the touching of them u_reviously, was a task of no inconsiderable difficulty or importance.
‘There was a very snug little party, consisting of Maria Lobbs and her cousi_ate, and three or four romping, good–humoured, rosy–cheeked girls. Nathanie_ipkin had ocular demonstration of the fact, that the rumours of old Lobbs’_reasures were not exaggerated. There were the real solid silver teapot, cream–ewer, and sugar–basin, on the table, and real silver spoons to stir th_ea with, and real china cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same, t_old the cakes and toast in. The only eye–sore in the whole place was anothe_ousin of Maria Lobbs’s, and a brother of Kate, whom Maria Lobbs called “Henry,” and who seemed to keep Maria Lobbs all to himself, up in one corne_f the table. It’s a delightful thing to see affection in families, but it ma_e carried rather too far, and Nathaniel Pipkin could not help thinking tha_aria Lobbs must be very particularly fond of her relations, if she paid a_uch attention to all of them as to this individual cousin. After tea, too, when the wicked little cousin proposed a game at blind man’s buff, it someho_r other happened that Nathaniel Pipkin was nearly always blind, and wheneve_e laid his hand upon the male cousin, he was sure to find that Maria Lobb_as not far off. And though the wicked little cousin and the other girl_inched him, and pulled his hair, and pushed chairs in his way, and all sort_f things, Maria Lobbs never seemed to come near him at all; an_nce—once—Nathaniel Pipkin could have sworn he heard the sound of a kiss, followed by a faint remonstrance from Maria Lobbs, and a half–suppressed laug_rom her female friends. All this was odd—very odd—and there is no saying wha_athaniel Pipkin might or might not have done, in consequence, if his thought_ad not been suddenly directed into a new channel.
‘The circumstance which directed his thoughts into a new channel was a lou_nocking at the street door, and the person who made this loud knocking at th_treet door was no other than old Lobbs himself, who had unexpectedl_eturned, and was hammering away, like a coffin–maker; for he wanted hi_upper. The alarming intelligence was no sooner communicated by the bon_pprentice with the thin legs, than the girls tripped upstairs to Mari_obbs’s bedroom, and the male cousin and Nathaniel Pipkin were thrust into _ouple of closets in the sitting–room, for want of any better places o_oncealment; and when Maria Lobbs and the wicked little cousin had stowed the_way, and put the room to rights, they opened the street door to old Lobbs, who had never left off knocking since he first began.
‘Now it did unfortunately happen that old Lobbs being very hungry wa_onstrous cross. Nathaniel Pipkin could hear him growling away like an ol_astiff with a sore throat; and whenever the unfortunate apprentice with th_hin legs came into the room, so surely did old Lobbs commence swearing at hi_n a most Saracenic and ferocious manner, though apparently with no other en_r object than that of easing his bosom by the discharge of a few superfluou_aths. At length some supper, which had been warming up, was placed on th_able, and then old Lobbs fell to, in regular style; and having made clea_ork of it in no time, kissed his daughter, and demanded his pipe.
‘Nature had placed Nathaniel Pipkin’s knees in very close juxtaposition, bu_hen he heard old Lobbs demand his pipe, they knocked together, as if the_ere going to reduce each other to powder; for, depending from a couple o_ooks, in the very closet in which he stood, was a large, brown–stemmed, silver–bowled pipe, which pipe he himself had seen in the mouth of old Lobbs, regularly every afternoon and evening, for the last five years. The two girl_ent downstairs for the pipe, and upstairs for the pipe, and everywhere bu_here they knew the pipe was, and old Lobbs stormed away meanwhile, in th_ost wonderful manner. At last he thought of the closet, and walked up to it.
It was of no use a little man like Nathaniel Pipkin pulling the door inwards, when a great strong fellow like old Lobbs was pulling it outwards. Old Lobb_ave it one tug, and open it flew, disclosing Nathaniel Pipkin standing bol_pright inside, and shaking with apprehension from head to foot. Bless us!
what an appalling look old Lobbs gave him, as he dragged him out by th_ollar, and held him at arm’s length.
‘“Why, what the devil do you want here?” said old Lobbs, in a fearful voice.
‘Nathaniel Pipkin could make no reply, so old Lobbs shook him backwards an_orwards, for two or three minutes, by way of arranging his ideas for him.
‘“What do you want here?” roared Lobbs; “I suppose you have come after m_aughter, now!”
‘Old Lobbs merely said this as a sneer: for he did not believe that morta_resumption could have carried Nathaniel Pipkin so far. What was hi_ndignation, when that poor man replied—‘“Yes, I did, Mr. Lobbs, I did com_fter your daughter. I love her, Mr. Lobbs.”
‘“Why, you snivelling, wry–faced, puny villain,” gasped old Lobbs, paralyse_y the atrocious confession; “what do you mean by that? Say this to my face!
Damme, I’ll throttle you!”
‘It is by no means improbable that old Lobbs would have carried his threa_nto execution, in the excess of his rage, if his arm had not been stayed by _ery unexpected apparition: to wit, the male cousin, who, stepping out of hi_loset, and walking up to old Lobbs, said—
‘“I cannot allow this harmless person, Sir, who has been asked here, in som_irlish frolic, to take upon himself, in a very noble manner, the fault (i_ault it is) which I am guilty of, and am ready to avow. I love your daughter, sir; and I came here for the purpose of meeting her.”
‘Old Lobbs opened his eyes very wide at this, but not wider than Nathanie_ipkin.
‘“You did?” said Lobbs, at last finding breath to speak.
‘“And I forbade you this house, long ago.”
‘“You did, or I should not have been here, clandestinely, to–night.”
‘I am sorry to record it of old Lobbs, but I think he would have struck th_ousin, if his pretty daughter, with her bright eyes swimming in tears, ha_ot clung to his arm.
‘“Don’t stop him, Maria,” said the young man; “if he has the will to strik_e, let him. I would not hurt a hair of his gray head, for the riches of th_orld.”
‘The old man cast down his eyes at this reproof, and they met those of hi_aughter. I have hinted once or twice before, that they were very bright eyes, and, though they were tearful now, their influence was by no means lessened.
Old Lobbs turned his head away, as if to avoid being persuaded by them, when, as fortune would have it, he encountered the face of the wicked little cousin, who, half afraid for her brother, and half laughing at Nathaniel Pipkin, presented as bewitching an expression of countenance, with a touch of slynes_n it, too, as any man, old or young, need look upon. She drew her ar_oaxingly through the old man’s, and whispered something in his ear; and d_hat he would, old Lobbs couldn’t help breaking out into a smile, while a tea_tole down his cheek at the same time. ‘Five minutes after this, the girl_ere brought down from the bedroom with a great deal of giggling and modesty; and while the young people were making themselves perfectly happy, old Lobb_ot down the pipe, and smoked it; and it was a remarkable circumstance abou_hat particular pipe of tobacco, that it was the most soothing and delightfu_ne he ever smoked.
‘Nathaniel Pipkin thought it best to keep his own counsel, and by so doin_radually rose into high favour with old Lobbs. who taught him to smoke i_ime; and they used to sit out in the garden on the fine evenings, for man_ears afterwards, smoking and drinking in great state. He soon recovered th_ffects of his attachment, for we find his name in the parish register, as _itness to the marriage of Maria Lobbs to her cousin; and it also appears, b_eference to other documents, that on the night of the wedding he wa_ncarcerated in the village cage, for having, in a state of extrem_ntoxication, committed sundry excesses in the streets, in all of which he wa_ided and abetted by the bony apprentice with the thin legs.’