Chapter 28 A good–humoured Christmas Chapter, containing an Account of _edding, and some other Sports beside: which although in their Way even a_ood Customs as Marriage itself, are not quite so religiously kept up, i_hese degenerate Times
As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the fou_ickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty–second day of December, i_he year of grace in which these, their faithfully–recorded adventures, wer_ndertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff an_earty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, an_pen–heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, t_all his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry t_ass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay an_erry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by it_oming.
And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season o_appiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been disperse_nd scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are the_eunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutua_oodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight; and one s_ncompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religiou_elief of the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughes_avages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition o_xistence, provided for the blessed and happy! How many old recollections, an_ow many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!
We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, yea_fter year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the heart_hat throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shon_o brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the mos_inute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crow_pon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage ha_een but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to th_elusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasure_f his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands o_iles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!
But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of this sain_hristmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his friends waiting in th_old on the outside of the Muggleton coach, which they have just attained, well wrapped up in great–coats, shawls, and comforters. The portmanteaus an_arpet–bags have been stowed away, and Mr. Weller and the guard ar_ndeavouring to insinuate into the fore–boot a huge cod–fish several sizes to_arge for it—which is snugly packed up, in a long brown basket, with a laye_f straw over the top, and which has been left to the last, in order that h_ay repose in safety on the half–dozen barrels of real native oysters, all th_roperty of Mr. Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at th_ottom of the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick’s countenanc_s most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try to squeeze the cod–fish int_he boot, first head first, and then tail first, and then top upward, and the_ottom upward, and then side–ways, and then long–ways, all of which artifice_he implacable cod–fish sturdily resists, until the guard accidentally hit_im in the very middle of the basket, whereupon he suddenly disappears int_he boot, and with him, the head and shoulders of the guard himself, who, no_alculating upon so sudden a cessation of the passive resistance of th_od–fish, experiences a very unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight o_ll the porters and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles with grea_ood–humour, and drawing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket, begs the guard, as he picks himself out of the boot, to drink his health in a glass of ho_randy–and–water; at which the guard smiles too, and Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, all smile in company. The guard and Mr. Weller disappea_or five minutes, most probably to get the hot brandy–and–water, for the_mell very strongly of it, when they return, the coachman mounts to the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickians pull their coats round their leg_nd their shawls over their noses, the helpers pull the horse–cloths off, th_oachman shouts out a cheery ‘All right,’ and away they go.
They have rumbled through the streets, and jolted over the stones, and a_ength reach the wide and open country. The wheels skim over the hard an_rosty ground; and the horses, bursting into a canter at a smart crack of th_hip, step along the road as if the load behind them—coach, passengers, cod–fish, oyster–barrels, and all—were but a feather at their heels. They hav_escended a gentle slope, and enter upon a level, as compact and dry as _olid block of marble, two miles long. Another crack of the whip, and on the_peed, at a smart gallop, the horses tossing their heads and rattling th_arness, as if in exhilaration at the rapidity of the motion; while th_oachman, holding whip and reins in one hand, takes off his hat with th_ther, and resting it on his knees, pulls out his handkerchief, and wipes hi_orehead, partly because he has a habit of doing it, and partly because it’_s well to show the passengers how cool he is, and what an easy thing it is t_rive four–in–hand, when you have had as much practice as he has. Having don_his very leisurely (otherwise the effect would be materially impaired), h_eplaces his handkerchief, pulls on his hat, adjusts his gloves, squares hi_lbows, cracks the whip again, and on they speed, more merrily than before. _ew small houses, scattered on either side of the road, betoken the entranc_o some town or village. The lively notes of the guard’s key–bugle vibrate i_he clear cold air, and wake up the old gentleman inside, who, carefull_etting down the window–sash half–way, and standing sentry over the air, take_ short peep out, and then carefully pulling it up again, informs the othe_nside that they’re going to change directly; on which the other inside wake_imself up, and determines to postpone his next nap until after the stoppage.
Again the bugle sounds lustily forth, and rouses the cottager’s wife an_hildren, who peep out at the house door, and watch the coach till it turn_he corner, when they once more crouch round the blazing fire, and throw o_nother log of wood against father comes home; while father himself, a ful_ile off, has just exchanged a friendly nod with the coachman, and turne_ound to take a good long stare at the vehicle as it whirls away.
And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattles through th_ll–paved streets of a country town; and the coachman, undoing the buckl_hich keeps his ribands together, prepares to throw them off the moment h_tops. Mr. Pickwick emerges from his coat collar, and looks about him wit_reat curiosity; perceiving which, the coachman informs Mr. Pickwick of th_ame of the town, and tells him it was market–day yesterday, both of whic_ieces of information Mr. Pickwick retails to his fellow–passengers; whereupo_hey emerge from their coat collars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits at the extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearl_recipitated into the street, as the coach twists round the sharp corner b_he cheesemonger’s shop, and turns into the market–place; and before Mr.
Snodgrass, who sits next to him, has recovered from his alarm, they pull up a_he inn yard where the fresh horses, with cloths on, are already waiting. Th_oachman throws down the reins and gets down himself, and the other outsid_assengers drop down also; except those who have no great confidence in thei_bility to get up again; and they remain where they are, and stamp their fee_gainst the coach to warm them—looking, with longing eyes and red noses, a_he bright fire in the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries whic_rnament the window.
But the guard has delivered at the corn–dealer’s shop, the brown paper packe_e took out of the little pouch which hangs over his shoulder by a leather_trap; and has seen the horses carefully put to; and has thrown on th_avement the saddle which was brought from London on the coach roof; and ha_ssisted in the conference between the coachman and the hostler about the gra_are that hurt her off fore–leg last Tuesday; and he and Mr. Weller are al_ight behind, and the coachman is all right in front, and the old gentlema_nside, who has kept the window down full two inches all this time, has pulle_t up again, and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, except the ‘two stout gentlemen,’ whom the coachman inquires after with som_mpatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard, and Sam Weller, and Mr.
Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and all the hostlers, and every one of the idlers, who are more in number than all the others put together, shout for the missin_entlemen as loud as they can bawl. A distant response is heard from the yard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it, quite out of breath, fo_hey have been having a glass of ale a–piece, and Mr. Pickwick’s fingers ar_o cold that he has been full five minutes before he could find the sixpenc_o pay for it. The coachman shouts an admonitory ‘Now then, gen’l’m’n,’ th_uard re–echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a very extraordinar_hing that people will get down when they know there isn’t time for it; Mr.
Pickwick struggles up on one side, Mr. Tupman on the other; Mr. Winkle cries ‘All right’; and off they start. Shawls are pulled up, coat collars ar_eadjusted, the pavement ceases, the houses disappear; and they are once agai_ashing along the open road, with the fresh clear air blowing in their faces, and gladdening their very hearts within them.
Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by the Muggleto_elegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and at three o’clock that afternoo_hey all stood high and dry, safe and sound, hale and hearty, upon the step_f the Blue Lion, having taken on the road quite enough of ale and brandy, t_nable them to bid defiance to the frost that was binding up the earth in it_ron fetters, and weaving its beautiful network upon the trees and hedges. Mr.
Pickwick was busily engaged in counting the barrels of oysters an_uperintending the disinterment of the cod–fish, when he felt himself gentl_ulled by the skirts of the coat. Looking round, he discovered that th_ndividual who resorted to this mode of catching his attention was no othe_han Mr. Wardle’s favourite page, better known to the readers of thi_nvarnished history, by the distinguishing appellation of the fat boy.
‘Aha!’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Aha!’ said the fat boy.
As he said it, he glanced from the cod–fish to the oyster–barrels, an_huckled joyously. He was fatter than ever.
‘Well, you look rosy enough, my young friend,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘I’ve been asleep, right in front of the taproom fire,’ replied the fat boy, who had heated himself to the colour of a new chimney–pot, in the course of a_our’s nap. ‘Master sent me over with the shay–cart, to carry your luggage u_o the house. He’d ha’ sent some saddle–horses, but he thought you’d rathe_alk, being a cold day.’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily, for he remembered how they ha_ravelled over nearly the same ground on a previous occasion. ‘Yes, we woul_ather walk. Here, Sam!’
‘Sir,’ said Mr. Weller.
‘Help Mr. Wardle’s servant to put the packages into the cart, and then ride o_ith him. We will walk forward at once.’
Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman, Mr. Pickwick an_is three friends struck into the footpath across the fields, and walke_riskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and the fat boy confronted together for th_irst time. Sam looked at the fat boy with great astonishment, but withou_aying a word; and began to stow the luggage rapidly away in the cart, whil_he fat boy stood quietly by, and seemed to think it a very interesting sor_f thing to see Mr. Weller working by himself.
‘There,’ said Sam, throwing in the last carpet–bag, ‘there they are!’
‘Yes,’ said the fat boy, in a very satisfied tone, ‘there they are.’
‘Vell, young twenty stun,’ said Sam, ‘you’re a nice specimen of a prize boy, you are!’ ‘Thank’ee,’ said the fat boy.
‘You ain’t got nothin’ on your mind as makes you fret yourself, have you?’ inquired Sam.
‘Not as I knows on,’ replied the fat boy.
‘I should rayther ha’ thought, to look at you, that you was a–labourin’ unde_n unrequited attachment to some young ‘ooman,’ said Sam.
The fat boy shook his head.
‘Vell,’ said Sam, ‘I am glad to hear it. Do you ever drink anythin’?’
‘I likes eating better,’ replied the boy.
‘Ah,’ said Sam, ‘I should ha’ s’posed that; but what I mean is, should yo_ike a drop of anythin’ as’d warm you? but I s’pose you never was cold, wit_ll them elastic fixtures, was you?’
‘Sometimes,’ replied the boy; ‘and I likes a drop of something, when it’_ood.’
‘Oh, you do, do you?’ said Sam, ‘come this way, then!’
The Blue Lion tap was soon gained, and the fat boy swallowed a glass of liquo_ithout so much as winking—a feat which considerably advanced him in Mr.
Weller’s good opinion. Mr. Weller having transacted a similar piece o_usiness on his own account, they got into the cart.
‘Can you drive?’ said the fat boy. ‘I should rayther think so,’ replied Sam.
‘There, then,’ said the fat boy, putting the reins in his hand, and pointin_p a lane, ‘it’s as straight as you can go; you can’t miss it.’
With these words, the fat boy laid himself affectionately down by the side o_he cod–fish, and, placing an oyster–barrel under his head for a pillow, fel_sleep instantaneously.
‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘of all the cool boys ever I set my eyes on, this here youn_en’l’m’n is the coolest. Come, wake up, young dropsy!’
But as young dropsy evinced no symptoms of returning animation, Sam Weller sa_imself down in front of the cart, and starting the old horse with a jerk o_he rein, jogged steadily on, towards the Manor Farm.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pickwick and his friends having walked their blood into activ_irculation, proceeded cheerfully on. The paths were hard; the grass was cris_nd frosty; the air had a fine, dry, bracing coldness; and the rapid approac_f the gray twilight (slate–coloured is a better term in frosty weather) mad_hem look forward with pleasant anticipation to the comforts which awaite_hem at their hospitable entertainer’s. It was the sort of afternoon tha_ight induce a couple of elderly gentlemen, in a lonely field, to take of_heir greatcoats and play at leap–frog in pure lightness of heart and gaiety; and we firmly believe that had Mr. Tupman at that moment proffered ‘a back,’ Mr. Pickwick would have accepted his offer with the utmost avidity.
However, Mr. Tupman did not volunteer any such accommodation, and the friend_alked on, conversing merrily. As they turned into a lane they had to cross, the sound of many voices burst upon their ears; and before they had even ha_ime to form a guess to whom they belonged, they walked into the very centr_f the party who were expecting their arrival—a fact which was first notifie_o the Pickwickians, by the loud ‘Hurrah,’ which burst from old Wardle’s lips, when they appeared in sight.
First, there was Wardle himself, looking, if that were possible, more joll_han ever; then there were Bella and her faithful Trundle; and, lastly, ther_ere Emily and some eight or ten young ladies, who had all come down to th_edding, which was to take place next day, and who were in as happy an_mportant a state as young ladies usually are, on such momentous occasions; and they were, one and all, startling the fields and lanes, far and wide, wit_heir frolic and laughter.
The ceremony of introduction, under such circumstances, was very soo_erformed, or we should rather say that the introduction was soon over, without any ceremony at all. In two minutes thereafter, Mr. Pickwick wa_oking with the young ladies who wouldn’t come over the stile while h_ooked—or who, having pretty feet and unexceptionable ankles, preferre_tanding on the top rail for five minutes or so, declaring that they were to_rightened to move—with as much ease and absence of reserve or constraint, a_f he had known them for life. It is worthy of remark, too, that Mr. Snodgras_ffered Emily far more assistance than the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full three feet high, and had only a couple o_tepping–stones) would seem to require; while one black–eyed young lady in _ery nice little pair of boots with fur round the top, was observed to screa_ery loudly, when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over.
All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficulties of the stil_ere at last surmounted, and they once more entered on the open field, ol_ardle informed Mr. Pickwick how they had all been down in a body to inspec_he furniture and fittings–up of the house, which the young couple were t_enant, after the Christmas holidays; at which communication Bella and Trundl_oth coloured up, as red as the fat boy after the taproom fire; and the youn_ady with the black eyes and the fur round the boots, whispered something i_mily’s ear, and then glanced archly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emil_esponded that she was a foolish girl, but turned very red, notwithstanding; and Mr. Snodgrass, who was as modest as all great geniuses usually are, fel_he crimson rising to the crown of his head, and devoutly wished, in th_nmost recesses of his own heart, that the young lady aforesaid, with he_lack eyes, and her archness, and her boots with the fur round the top, wer_ll comfortably deposited in the adjacent county.
But if they were social and happy outside the house, what was the warmth an_ordiality of their reception when they reached the farm! The very servant_rinned with pleasure at sight of Mr. Pickwick; and Emma bestowed _alf–demure, half–impudent, and all–pretty look of recognition, on Mr. Tupman, which was enough to make the statue of Bonaparte in the passage, unfold hi_rms, and clasp her within them.
The old lady was seated with customary state in the front parlour, but she wa_ather cross, and, by consequence, most particularly deaf. She never went ou_erself, and like a great many other old ladies of the same stamp, she was ap_o consider it an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty o_oing what she couldn’t. So, bless her old soul, she sat as upright as sh_ould, in her great chair, and looked as fierce as might be—and that wa_enevolent after all.
‘Mother,’ said Wardle, ‘Mr. Pickwick. You recollect him?’
‘Never mind,’ replied the old lady, with great dignity. ‘Don’t trouble Mr.
Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody cares about me now, and it’_ery nat’ral they shouldn’t.’ Here the old lady tossed her head, and smoothe_own her lavender–coloured silk dress with trembling hands. ‘Come, come, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I can’t let you cut an old friend in this way. _ave come down expressly to have a long talk, and another rubber with you; an_e’ll show these boys and girls how to dance a minuet, before they’r_ight–and–forty hours older.’
The old lady was rapidly giving way, but she did not like to do it all a_nce; so she only said, ‘Ah! I can’t hear him!’
‘Nonsense, mother,’ said Wardle. ‘Come, come, don’t be cross, there’s a goo_oul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keep her spirits up, poor girl.’
The good old lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her son said it. But ag_as its little infirmities of temper, and she was not quite brought round yet.
So, she smoothed down the lavender–coloured dress again, and turning to Mr.
Pickwick said, ‘Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very different, when I wa_ girl.’
‘No doubt of that, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and that’s the reason why _ould make much of the few that have any traces of the old stock’—and sayin_his, Mr. Pickwick gently pulled Bella towards him, and bestowing a kiss upo_er forehead, bade her sit down on the little stool at her grandmother’s feet.
Whether the expression of her countenance, as it was raised towards the ol_ady’s face, called up a thought of old times, or whether the old lady wa_ouched by Mr. Pickwick’s affectionate good–nature, or whatever was the cause, she was fairly melted; so she threw herself on her granddaughter’s neck, an_ll the little ill–humour evaporated in a gush of silent tears.
A happy party they were, that night. Sedate and solemn were the score o_ubbers in which Mr. Pickwick and the old lady played together; uproarious wa_he mirth of the round table. Long after the ladies had retired, did the ho_lder wine, well qualified with brandy and spice, go round, and round, an_ound again; and sound was the sleep and pleasant were the dreams tha_ollowed. It is a remarkable fact that those of Mr. Snodgrass bore constan_eference to Emily Wardle; and that the principal figure in Mr. Winkle’_isions was a young lady with black eyes, and arch smile, and a pair o_emarkably nice boots with fur round the tops.
Mr. Pickwick was awakened early in the morning, by a hum of voices and _attering of feet, sufficient to rouse even the fat boy from his heav_lumbers. He sat up in bed and listened. The female servants and femal_isitors were running constantly to and fro; and there were such multitudinou_emands for hot water, such repeated outcries for needles and thread, and s_any half–suppressed entreaties of ‘Oh, do come and tie me, there’s a dear!’ that Mr. Pickwick in his innocence began to imagine that something dreadfu_ust have occurred—when he grew more awake, and remembered the wedding. Th_ccasion being an important one, he dressed himself with peculiar care, an_escended to the breakfast–room.
There were all the female servants in a bran new uniform of pink muslin gown_ith white bows in their caps, running about the house in a state o_xcitement and agitation which it would be impossible to describe. The ol_ady was dressed out in a brocaded gown, which had not seen the light fo_wenty years, saving and excepting such truant rays as had stolen through th_hinks in the box in which it had been laid by, during the whole time. Mr.
Trundle was in high feather and spirits, but a little nervous withal. Th_earty old landlord was trying to look very cheerful and unconcerned, bu_ailing signally in the attempt. All the girls were in tears and white muslin, except a select two or three, who were being honoured with a private view o_he bride and bridesmaids, upstairs. All the Pickwickians were in mos_looming array; and there was a terrific roaring on the grass in front of th_ouse, occasioned by all the men, boys, and hobbledehoys attached to the farm, each of whom had got a white bow in his button–hole, and all of whom wer_heering with might and main; being incited thereto, and stimulated therein b_he precept and example of Mr. Samuel Weller, who had managed to become might_opular already, and was as much at home as if he had been born on the land.
A wedding is a licensed subject to joke upon, but there really is no grea_oke in the matter after all;—we speak merely of the ceremony, and beg it t_e distinctly understood that we indulge in no hidden sarcasm upon a marrie_ife. Mixed up with the pleasure and joy of the occasion, are the many regret_t quitting home, the tears of parting between parent and child, th_onsciousness of leaving the dearest and kindest friends of the happies_ortion of human life, to encounter its cares and troubles with others stil_ntried and little known—natural feelings which we would not render thi_hapter mournful by describing, and which we should be still more unwilling t_e supposed to ridicule.
Let us briefly say, then, that the ceremony was performed by the ol_lergyman, in the parish church of Dingley Dell, and that Mr. Pickwick’s nam_s attached to the register, still preserved in the vestry thereof; that th_oung lady with the black eyes signed her name in a very unsteady an_remulous manner; that Emily’s signature, as the other bridesmaid, is nearl_llegible; that it all went off in very admirable style; that the young ladie_enerally thought it far less shocking than they had expected; and tha_lthough the owner of the black eyes and the arch smile informed Mr. Wardl_hat she was sure she could never submit to anything so dreadful, we have th_ery best reasons for thinking she was mistaken. To all this, we may add, tha_r. Pickwick was the first who saluted the bride, and that in so doing h_hrew over her neck a rich gold watch and chain, which no mortal eyes but th_eweller’s had ever beheld before. Then, the old church bell rang as gaily a_t could, and they all returned to breakfast. ‘Vere does the mince–pies go, young opium–eater?’ said Mr. Weller to the fat boy, as he assisted in layin_ut such articles of consumption as had not been duly arranged on the previou_ight.
The fat boy pointed to the destination of the pies.
‘Wery good,’ said Sam, ‘stick a bit o’ Christmas in ’em. T’other dis_pposite. There; now we look compact and comfortable, as the father said ve_e cut his little boy’s head off, to cure him o’ squintin’.’
As Mr. Weller made the comparison, he fell back a step or two, to give ful_ffect to it, and surveyed the preparations with the utmost satisfaction.
‘Wardle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, almost as soon as they were all seated, ‘a glas_f wine in honour of this happy occasion!’
‘I shall be delighted, my boy,’ said Wardle. ‘Joe—damn that boy, he’s gone t_leep.’ ‘No, I ain’t, sir,’ replied the fat boy, starting up from a remot_orner, where, like the patron saint of fat boys—the immortal Horner—he ha_een devouring a Christmas pie, though not with the coolness and deliberatio_hich characterised that young gentleman’s proceedings.
‘Fill Mr. Pickwick’s glass.’
The fat boy filled Mr. Pickwick’s glass, and then retired behind his master’_hair, from whence he watched the play of the knives and forks, and th_rogress of the choice morsels from the dishes to the mouths of the company, with a kind of dark and gloomy joy that was most impressive.
‘God bless you, old fellow!’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Same to you, my boy,’ replied Wardle; and they pledged each other, heartily.
‘Mrs. Wardle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘we old folks must have a glass of win_ogether, in honour of this joyful event.’
The old lady was in a state of great grandeur just then, for she was sittin_t the top of the table in the brocaded gown, with her newly–marrie_randdaughter on one side, and Mr. Pickwick on the other, to do the carving.
Mr. Pickwick had not spoken in a very loud tone, but she understood him a_nce, and drank off a full glass of wine to his long life and happiness; afte_hich the worthy old soul launched forth into a minute and particular accoun_f her own wedding, with a dissertation on the fashion of wearing high–heele_hoes, and some particulars concerning the life and adventures of th_eautiful Lady Tollimglower, deceased; at all of which the old lady hersel_aughed very heartily indeed, and so did the young ladies too, for they wer_ondering among themselves what on earth grandma was talking about. When the_aughed, the old lady laughed ten times more heartily, and said that thes_lways had been considered capital stories, which caused them all to laug_gain, and put the old lady into the very best of humours. Then the cake wa_ut, and passed through the ring; the young ladies saved pieces to put unde_heir pillows to dream of their future husbands on; and a great deal o_lushing and merriment was thereby occasioned.
‘Mr. Miller,’ said Mr. Pickwick to his old acquaintance, the hard–heade_entleman, ‘a glass of wine?’
‘With great satisfaction, Mr. Pickwick,’ replied the hard–headed gentlema_olemnly.
‘You’ll take me in?’ said the benevolent old clergyman.
‘And me,’ interposed his wife. ‘And me, and me,’ said a couple of poo_elations at the bottom of the table, who had eaten and drunk very heartily, and laughed at everything.
Mr. Pickwick expressed his heartfelt delight at every additional suggestion; and his eyes beamed with hilarity and cheerfulness. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly rising.
‘Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear!’ cried Mr. Weller, in the excitement o_is feelings.
‘Call in all the servants,’ cried old Wardle, interposing to prevent th_ublic rebuke which Mr. Weller would otherwise most indubitably have receive_rom his master. ‘Give them a glass of wine each to drink the toast in. Now, Pickwick.’
Amidst the silence of the company, the whispering of the women–servants, an_he awkward embarrassment of the men, Mr. Pickwick proceeded—
‘Ladies and gentlemen—no, I won’t say ladies and gentlemen, I’ll call you m_riends, my dear friends, if the ladies will allow me to take so great _iberty—’
Here Mr. Pickwick was interrupted by immense applause from the ladies, echoe_y the gentlemen, during which the owner of the eyes was distinctly heard t_tate that she could kiss that dear Mr. Pickwick. Whereupon Mr. Winkl_allantly inquired if it couldn’t be done by deputy: to which the young lad_ith the black eyes replied ‘Go away,’ and accompanied the request with a loo_hich said as plainly as a look could do, ‘if you can.’
‘My dear friends,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘I am going to propose the health o_he bride and bridegroom—God bless ’em (cheers and tears). My young friend, Trundle, I believe to be a very excellent and manly fellow; and his wife _now to be a very amiable and lovely girl, well qualified to transfer t_nother sphere of action the happiness which for twenty years she has diffuse_round her, in her father’s house. (Here, the fat boy burst forth int_tentorian blubberings, and was led forth by the coat collar, by Mr. Weller.) I wish,’ added Mr. Pickwick—‘I wish I was young enough to be her sister’_usband (cheers), but, failing that, I am happy to be old enough to be he_ather; for, being so, I shall not be suspected of any latent designs when _ay, that I admire, esteem, and love them both (cheers and sobs). The bride’_ather, our good friend there, is a noble person, and I am proud to know him (great uproar). He is a kind, excellent, independent–spirited, fine–hearted, hospitable, liberal man (enthusiastic shouts from the poor relations, at al_he adjectives; and especially at the two last). That his daughter may enjo_ll the happiness, even he can desire; and that he may derive from th_ontemplation of her felicity all the gratification of heart and peace of min_hich he so well deserves, is, I am persuaded, our united wish. So, let u_rink their healths, and wish them prolonged life, and every blessing!’
Mr. Pickwick concluded amidst a whirlwind of applause; and once more were th_ungs of the supernumeraries, under Mr. Weller’s command, brought into activ_nd efficient operation. Mr. Wardle proposed Mr. Pickwick; Mr. Pickwic_roposed the old lady. Mr. Snodgrass proposed Mr. Wardle; Mr. Wardle propose_r. Snodgrass. One of the poor relations proposed Mr. Tupman, and the othe_oor relation proposed Mr. Winkle; all was happiness and festivity, until th_ysterious disappearance of both the poor relations beneath the table, warne_he party that it was time to adjourn.
At dinner they met again, after a five–and–twenty mile walk, undertaken by th_ales at Wardle’s recommendation, to get rid of the effects of the wine a_reakfast. The poor relations had kept in bed all day, with the view o_ttaining the same happy consummation, but, as they had been unsuccessful, they stopped there. Mr. Weller kept the domestics in a state of perpetua_ilarity; and the fat boy divided his time into small alternate allotments o_ating and sleeping.
The dinner was as hearty an affair as the breakfast, and was quite as noisy, without the tears. Then came the dessert and some more toasts. Then came th_ea and coffee; and then, the ball.
The best sitting–room at Manor Farm was a good, long, dark–panelled room wit_ high chimney–piece, and a capacious chimney, up which you could have drive_ne of the new patent cabs, wheels and all. At the upper end of the room, seated in a shady bower of holly and evergreens were the two best fiddlers, and the only harp, in all Muggleton. In all sorts of recesses, and on al_inds of brackets, stood massive old silver candlesticks with four branche_ach. The carpet was up, the candles burned bright, the fire blazed an_rackled on the hearth, and merry voices and light–hearted laughter ran_hrough the room. If any of the old English yeomen had turned into fairie_hen they died, it was just the place in which they would have held thei_evels.
If anything could have added to the interest of this agreeable scene, it woul_ave been the remarkable fact of Mr. Pickwick’s appearing without his gaiters, for the first time within the memory of his oldest friends.
‘You mean to dance?’ said Wardle.
‘Of course I do,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Don’t you see I am dressed for th_urpose?’ Mr. Pickwick called attention to his speckled silk stockings, an_martly tied pumps.
‘You in silk stockings!’ exclaimed Mr. Tupman jocosely.
‘And why not, sir—why not?’ said Mr. Pickwick, turning warmly upon him. ‘Oh, of course there is no reason why you shouldn’t wear them,’ responded Mr.
‘I imagine not, sir—I imagine not,’ said Mr. Pickwick, in a very peremptor_one.
Mr. Tupman had contemplated a laugh, but he found it was a serious matter; s_e looked grave, and said they were a pretty pattern.
‘I hope they are,’ said Mr. Pickwick, fixing his eyes upon his friend. ‘Yo_ee nothing extraordinary in the stockings, as stockings, I trust, Sir?’
‘Certainly not. Oh, certainly not,’ replied Mr. Tupman. He walked away; an_r. Pickwick’s countenance resumed its customary benign expression.
‘We are all ready, I believe,’ said Mr. Pickwick, who was stationed with th_ld lady at the top of the dance, and had already made four false starts, i_is excessive anxiety to commence.
‘Then begin at once,’ said Wardle. ‘Now!’
Up struck the two fiddles and the one harp, and off went Mr. Pickwick int_ands across, when there was a general clapping of hands, and a cry of ‘Stop, stop!’
‘What’s the matter?’ said Mr. Pickwick, who was only brought to, by th_iddles and harp desisting, and could have been stopped by no other earthl_ower, if the house had been on fire. ‘Where’s Arabella Allen?’ cried a doze_oices.
‘And Winkle?‘added Mr. Tupman.
‘Here we are!’ exclaimed that gentleman, emerging with his pretty companio_rom the corner; as he did so, it would have been hard to tell which was th_edder in the face, he or the young lady with the black eyes.
‘What an extraordinary thing it is, Winkle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rathe_ettishly, ‘that you couldn’t have taken your place before.’
‘Not at all extraordinary,’ said Mr. Winkle.
‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a very expressive smile, as his eyes rested o_rabella, ‘well, I don’t know that it was extraordinary, either, after all.’
However, there was no time to think more about the matter, for the fiddles an_arp began in real earnest. Away went Mr. Pickwick—hands across—down th_iddle to the very end of the room, and half–way up the chimney, back again t_he door—poussette everywhere—loud stamp on the ground—ready for the nex_ouple—off again—all the figure over once more—another stamp to beat out th_ime—next couple, and the next, and the next again—never was such going; a_ast, after they had reached the bottom of the dance, and full fourteen coupl_fter the old lady had retired in an exhausted state, and the clergyman’s wif_ad been substituted in her stead, did that gentleman, when there was n_emand whatever on his exertions, keep perpetually dancing in his place, t_eep time to the music, smiling on his partner all the while with a blandnes_f demeanour which baffles all description.
Long before Mr. Pickwick was weary of dancing, the newly–married couple ha_etired from the scene. There was a glorious supper downstairs, notwithstanding, and a good long sitting after it; and when Mr. Pickwic_woke, late the next morning, he had a confused recollection of having, severally and confidentially, invited somewhere about five–and–forty people t_ine with him at the George and Vulture, the very first time they came t_ondon; which Mr. Pickwick rightly considered a pretty certain indication o_is having taken something besides exercise, on the previous night.
‘And so your family has games in the kitchen to–night, my dear, has they?’ inquired Sam of Emma.
‘Yes, Mr. Weller,’ replied Emma; ‘we always have on Christmas Eve. Maste_ouldn’t neglect to keep it up on any account.’
‘Your master’s a wery pretty notion of keeping anythin’ up, my dear,’ said Mr.
Weller; ‘I never see such a sensible sort of man as he is, or such a reg’la_en’l’m’n.’ ‘Oh, that he is!’ said the fat boy, joining in the conversation; ‘don’t he breed nice pork!’ The fat youth gave a semi–cannibalic leer at Mr.
Weller, as he thought of the roast legs and gravy.
‘Oh, you’ve woke up, at last, have you?’ said Sam.
The fat boy nodded.
‘I’ll tell you what it is, young boa–constructer,’ said Mr. Welle_mpressively; ‘if you don’t sleep a little less, and exercise a little more, wen you comes to be a man you’ll lay yourself open to the same sort o_ersonal inconwenience as was inflicted on the old gen’l’m’n as wore th_igtail.’
‘What did they do to him?’ inquired the fat boy, in a faltering voice.
‘I’m a–going to tell you,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘he was one o’ the larges_atterns as was ever turned out—reg’lar fat man, as hadn’t caught a glimpse o_is own shoes for five–and–forty year.’
‘Lor!’ exclaimed Emma.
‘No, that he hadn’t, my dear,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘and if you’d put an exac_odel of his own legs on the dinin’–table afore him, he wouldn’t ha’ known ’em. Well, he always walks to his office with a wery handsome gold watch–chai_anging out, about a foot and a quarter, and a gold watch in his fob pocket a_as worth—I’m afraid to say how much, but as much as a watch can be—a large, heavy, round manufacter, as stout for a watch, as he was for a man, and with _ig face in proportion. “You’d better not carry that ‘ere watch,” says the ol_en’l’m’n’s friends, “you’ll be robbed on it,” says they. “Shall I?” says he.
“Yes, you will,” says they. “Well,” says he, “I should like to see the thie_s could get this here watch out, for I’m blessed if I ever can, it’s such _ight fit,” says he, “and wenever I vants to know what’s o’clock, I’m oblige_o stare into the bakers’ shops,” he says. Well, then he laughs as hearty a_f he was a–goin’ to pieces, and out he walks agin with his powdered head an_igtail, and rolls down the Strand with the chain hangin’ out furder tha_ver, and the great round watch almost bustin’ through his gray kersey smalls.
There warn’t a pickpocket in all London as didn’t take a pull at that chain, but the chain ’ud never break, and the watch ’ud never come out, so they soo_ot tired of dragging such a heavy old gen’l’m’n along the pavement, and he’_o home and laugh till the pigtail wibrated like the penderlum of a Dutc_lock. At last, one day the old gen’l’m’n was a–rollin’ along, and he sees _ickpocket as he know’d by sight, a–coming up, arm in arm with a little bo_ith a wery large head. “Here’s a game,” says the old gen’l’m’n to himself, “they’re a–goin’ to have another try, but it won’t do!” So he begin_–chucklin’ wery hearty, wen, all of a sudden, the little boy leaves hold o_he pickpocket’s arm, and rushes head foremost straight into the ol_en’l’m’n’s stomach, and for a moment doubles him right up with the pain.
“Murder!” says the old gen’l’m’n. “All right, Sir,” says the pickpocket, a–wisperin’ in his ear. And wen he come straight agin, the watch and chain wa_one, and what’s worse than that, the old gen’l’m’n’s digestion was all wron_ver afterwards, to the wery last day of his life; so just you look about you, young feller, and take care you don’t get too fat.’
As Mr. Weller concluded this moral tale, with which the fat boy appeared muc_ffected, they all three repaired to the large kitchen, in which the famil_ere by this time assembled, according to annual custom on Christmas Eve, observed by old Wardle’s forefathers from time immemorial.
From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch o_istletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightfu_truggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with _allantry that would have done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglowe_erself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, an_aluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old lady submitted to this piec_f practical politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important an_erious a solemnity, but the younger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbue_ith a superstitious veneration for the custom, or imagining that the value o_ salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain it, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until some of the less adventurou_entlemen were on the point of desisting, when they all at once found i_seless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace.
Mr. Winkle kissed the young lady with the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrass kisse_mily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular about the form of being under th_istletoe, kissed Emma and the other female servants, just as he caught them.
As to the poor relations, they kissed everybody, not even excepting th_lainer portions of the young lady visitors, who, in their excessiv_onfusion, ran right under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up, withou_nowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying the whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took the opportunity o_ppropriating to his own use, and summarily devouring, a particularly fin_ince–pie, that had been carefully put by, for somebody else.
Now, the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow, and curls in _angle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before mentioned, wa_tanding under the mistletoe, looking with a very pleased countenance on al_hat was passing around him, when the young lady with the black eyes, after _ittle whispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm round Mr. Pickwick’s neck, saluted him affectionately o_he left cheek; and before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them.
It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group, no_ulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin, and then on th_ose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of laughter which wer_aised on every side; but it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr.
Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling u_gainst the wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all th_ysteries of blind–man’s buff, with the utmost relish for the game, until a_ast he caught one of the poor relations, and then had to evade the blind–ma_imself, which he did with a nimbleness and agility that elicited th_dmiration and applause of all beholders. The poor relations caught the peopl_ho they thought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caugh_hemselves. When they all tired of blind–man’s buff, there was a great game a_nap–dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all th_aisins were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to _ubstantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than a_rdinary wash–house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubblin_ith a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.
‘This,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, ‘this is, indeed, comfort.’ ‘Ou_nvariable custom,’ replied Mr. Wardle. ‘Everybody sits down with us o_hristmas Eve, as you see them now—servants and all; and here we wait, unti_he clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and beguile the time wit_orfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.’
Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred. The deep re_laze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the farthest corner of th_oom, and cast its cheerful tint on every face.
‘Come,’ said Wardle, ‘a song—a Christmas song! I’ll give you one, in defaul_f a better.’
‘Bravo!’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Fill up,’ cried Wardle. ‘It will be two hours, good, before you see th_ottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail; fill up al_ound, and now for the song.’
Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice, commenced without more ado—
**A Christmas Carol**
‘I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing
Let the blossoms and buds be borne;
He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,
And he scatters them ere the morn.
An inconstant elf, he knows not himself,
Nor his own changing mind an hour,
He’ll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,
He’ll wither your youngest flower.
‘Let the Summer sun to his bright home run,
He shall never be sought by me;
When he’s dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud
And care not how sulky he be!
For his darling child is the madness wild
That sports in fierce fever’s train;
And when love is too strong, it don’t last long,
As many have found to their pain.
‘A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light
Of the modest and gentle moon,
Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween,
Than the broad and unblushing noon.
But every leaf awakens my grief,
As it lieth beneath the tree;
So let Autumn air be never so fair,
It by no means agrees with me.
‘But my song I troll out, for christmas Stout,
The hearty, the true, and the bold;
A bumper I drain, and with might and main
Give three cheers for this Christmas old!
We’ll usher him in with a merry din
That shall gladden his joyous heart,
And we’ll keep him up, while there’s bite or sup,
And in fellowship good, we’ll part.
‘In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide
One jot of his hard–weather scars;
They’re no disgrace, for there’s much the same trace
On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
Then again I sing till the roof doth ring
And it echoes from wall to wall—
To the stout old wight, fair welcome to–night,
As the King of the Seasons all!’
This song was tumultuously applauded—for friends and dependents make a capita_udience—and the poor relations, especially, were in perfect ecstasies o_apture. Again was the fire replenished, and again went the wassail round.
‘How it snows!’ said one of the men, in a low tone.
‘Snows, does it?’ said Wardle.
‘Rough, cold night, Sir,’ replied the man; ‘and there’s a wind got up, tha_rifts it across the fields, in a thick white cloud.’
‘What does Jem say?’ inquired the old lady. ‘There ain’t anything the matter, is there?’
‘No, no, mother,’ replied Wardle; ‘he says there’s a snowdrift, and a win_hat’s piercing cold. I should know that, by the way it rumbles in th_himney.’
‘Ah!’ said the old lady, ‘there was just such a wind, and just such a fall o_now, a good many years back, I recollect—just five years before your poo_ather died. It was a Christmas Eve, too; and I remember that on that ver_ight he told us the story about the goblins that carried away old Gabrie_rub.’
‘The story about what?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Oh, nothing, nothing,’ replied Wardle. ‘About an old sexton, that the goo_eople down here suppose to have been carried away by goblins.’
‘Suppose!’ ejaculated the old lady. ‘Is there anybody hardy enough t_isbelieve it? Suppose! Haven’t you heard ever since you were a child, that h_as carried away by the goblins, and don’t you know he was?’
‘Very well, mother, he was, if you like,’ said Wardle laughing. ‘He wa_arried away by goblins, Pickwick; and there’s an end of the matter.’
‘No, no,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘not an end of it, I assure you; for I must hea_ow, and why, and all about it.’
Wardle smiled, as every head was bent forward to hear, and filling out th_assail with no stinted hand, nodded a health to Mr. Pickwick, and began a_ollows—
But bless our editorial heart, what a long chapter we have been betrayed into!
We had quite forgotten all such petty restrictions as chapters, we solemnl_eclare. So here goes, to give the goblin a fair start in a new one. A clea_tage and no favour for the goblins, ladies and gentlemen, if you please.