Chapter 35 In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to Bath; and goe_ccordingly
‘But surely, my dear sir,’ said little Perker, as he stood in Mr. Pickwick’_partment on the morning after the trial, ‘surely you don’t really mean—reall_nd seriously now, and irritation apart—that you won’t pay these costs an_amages?’
‘Not one halfpenny,’ said Mr. Pickwick firmly; ‘not one halfpenny.’
‘Hooroar for the principle, as the money–lender said ven he vouldn’t renew th_ill,’ observed Mr. Weller, who was clearing away the breakfast–things.
‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘have the goodness to step downstairs.’
‘Cert’nly, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; and acting on Mr. Pickwick’s gentle hint, Sam retired.
‘No, Perker,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with great seriousness of manner, ‘my friend_ere have endeavoured to dissuade me from this determination, but withou_vail. I shall employ myself as usual, until the opposite party have the powe_f issuing a legal process of execution against me; and if they are vil_nough to avail themselves of it, and to arrest my person, I shall yiel_yself up with perfect cheerfulness and content of heart. When can they d_his?’
‘They can issue execution, my dear Sir, for the amount of the damages an_axed costs, next term,’ replied Perker, ‘just two months hence, my dear sir.’
‘Very good,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Until that time, my dear fellow, let me hea_o more of the matter. And now,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, looking round on hi_riends with a good–humoured smile, and a sparkle in the eye which n_pectacles could dim or conceal, ‘the only question is, Where shall we g_ext?’
Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were too much affected by their friend’s herois_o offer any reply. Mr. Winkle had not yet sufficiently recovered th_ecollection of his evidence at the trial, to make any observation on an_ubject, so Mr. Pickwick paused in vain.
‘Well,’ said that gentleman, ‘if you leave me to suggest our destination, _ay Bath. I think none of us have ever been there.’
Nobody had; and as the proposition was warmly seconded by Perker, wh_onsidered it extremely probable that if Mr. Pickwick saw a little change an_aiety he would be inclined to think better of his determination, and worse o_ debtor’s prison, it was carried unanimously; and Sam was at once despatche_o the White Horse Cellar, to take five places by the half–past seven o’cloc_oach, next morning.
There were just two places to be had inside, and just three to be had out; s_am Weller booked for them all, and having exchanged a few compliments wit_he booking–office clerk on the subject of a pewter half–crown which wa_endered him as a portion of his ‘change,’ walked back to the George an_ulture, where he was pretty busily employed until bed–time in reducin_lothes and linen into the smallest possible compass, and exerting hi_echanical genius in constructing a variety of ingenious devices for keepin_he lids on boxes which had neither locks nor hinges.
The next was a very unpropitious morning for a journey—muggy, damp, an_rizzly. The horses in the stages that were going out, and had come throug_he city, were smoking so, that the outside passengers were invisible. Th_ewspaper–sellers looked moist, and smelled mouldy; the wet ran off the hat_f the orange–vendors as they thrust their heads into the coach windows, an_iluted the insides in a refreshing manner. The Jews with the fifty–blade_enknives shut them up in despair; the men with the pocket–books mad_ocket–books of them. Watch–guards and toasting–forks were alike at _iscount, and pencil–cases and sponges were a drug in the market.
Leaving Sam Weller to rescue the luggage from the seven or eight porters wh_lung themselves savagely upon it, the moment the coach stopped, and findin_hat they were about twenty minutes too early, Mr. Pickwick and his friend_ent for shelter into the travellers’ room—the last resource of huma_ejection.
The travellers’ room at the White Horse Cellar is of course uncomfortable; i_ould be no travellers’ room if it were not. It is the right–hand parlour, into which an aspiring kitchen fireplace appears to have walked, accompanie_y a rebellious poker, tongs, and shovel. It is divided into boxes, for th_olitary confinement of travellers, and is furnished with a clock, _ooking–glass, and a live waiter, which latter article is kept in a smal_ennel for washing glasses, in a corner of the apartment.
One of these boxes was occupied, on this particular occasion, by a stern–eye_an of about five–and–forty, who had a bald and glossy forehead, with a goo_eal of black hair at the sides and back of his head, and large blac_hiskers. He was buttoned up to the chin in a brown coat; and had a larg_ealskin travelling–cap, and a greatcoat and cloak, lying on the seat besid_im. He looked up from his breakfast as Mr. Pickwick entered, with a fierc_nd peremptory air, which was very dignified; and, having scrutinised tha_entleman and his companions to his entire satisfaction, hummed a tune, in _anner which seemed to say that he rather suspected somebody wanted to tak_dvantage of him, but it wouldn’t do.
‘Waiter,’ said the gentleman with the whiskers.
‘Sir?’ replied a man with a dirty complexion, and a towel of the same, emerging from the kennel before mentioned.
‘Some more toast.’
‘Buttered toast, mind,’ said the gentleman fiercely.
‘Directly, sir,’ replied the waiter.
The gentleman with the whiskers hummed a tune in the same manner as before, and pending the arrival of the toast, advanced to the front of the fire, and, taking his coat tails under his arms, looked at his boots and ruminated.
‘I wonder whereabouts in Bath this coach puts up,’ said Mr. Pickwick, mildl_ddressing Mr. Winkle.
‘Hum—eh—what’s that?’ said the strange man.
‘I made an observation to my friend, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, always read_o enter into conversation. ‘I wondered at what house the Bath coach put up.
Perhaps you can inform me.’ ‘Are you going to Bath?’ said the strange man.
‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.
‘And those other gentlemen?’
‘They are going also,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Not inside—I’ll be damned if you’re going inside,’ said the strange man.
‘Not all of us,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘No, not all of you,’ said the strange man emphatically. ‘I’ve taken tw_laces. If they try to squeeze six people into an infernal box that only hold_our, I’ll take a post–chaise and bring an action. I’ve paid my fare. It won’_o; I told the clerk when I took my places that it wouldn’t do. I know thes_hings have been done. I know they are done every day; but I never was done, and I never will be. Those who know me best, best know it; crush me!’ Here th_ierce gentleman rang the bell with great violence, and told the waiter he’_etter bring the toast in five seconds, or he’d know the reason why.
‘My good sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘you will allow me to observe that this is _ery unnecessary display of excitement. I have only taken places inside fo_wo.’
‘I am glad to hear it,’ said the fierce man. ‘I withdraw my expressions. _ender an apology. There’s my card. Give me your acquaintance.’
‘With great pleasure, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘We are to b_ellow–travellers, and I hope we shall find each other’s society mutuall_greeable.’
‘I hope we shall,’ said the fierce gentleman. ‘I know we shall. I like you_ooks; they please me. Gentlemen, your hands and names. Know me.’
Of course, an interchange of friendly salutations followed this graciou_peech; and the fierce gentleman immediately proceeded to inform the friends, in the same short, abrupt, jerking sentences, that his name was Dowler; tha_e was going to Bath on pleasure; that he was formerly in the army; that h_ad now set up in business as a gentleman; that he lived upon the profits; an_hat the individual for whom the second place was taken, was a personage n_ess illustrious than Mrs. Dowler, his lady wife.
‘She’s a fine woman,’ said Mr. Dowler. ‘I am proud of her. I have reason.’
‘I hope I shall have the pleasure of judging,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with _mile. ‘You shall,’ replied Dowler. ‘She shall know you. She shall esteem you.
I courted her under singular circumstances. I won her through a rash vow.
Thus. I saw her; I loved her; I proposed; she refused me.—“You lov_nother?”—“Spare my blushes.”—“I know him.”—“You do.”—“Very good; if h_emains here, I’ll skin him.”’
‘Lord bless me!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick involuntarily.
‘Did you skin the gentleman, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Winkle, with a very pale face.
‘I wrote him a note, I said it was a painful thing. And so it was.’
‘Certainly,’ interposed Mr. Winkle.
‘I said I had pledged my word as a gentleman to skin him. My character was a_take. I had no alternative. As an officer in His Majesty’s service, I wa_ound to skin him. I regretted the necessity, but it must be done. He was ope_o conviction. He saw that the rules of the service were imperative. He fled.
I married her. Here’s the coach. That’s her head.’
As Mr. Dowler concluded, he pointed to a stage which had just driven up, fro_he open window of which a rather pretty face in a bright blue bonnet wa_ooking among the crowd on the pavement, most probably for the rash ma_imself. Mr. Dowler paid his bill, and hurried out with his travelling cap, coat, and cloak; and Mr. Pickwick and his friends followed to secure thei_laces. Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had seated themselves at the back part o_he coach; Mr. Winkle had got inside; and Mr. Pickwick was preparing to follo_im, when Sam Weller came up to his master, and whispering in his ear, begge_o speak to him, with an air of the deepest mystery.
‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what’s the matter now?’
‘Here’s rayther a rum go, sir,’ replied Sam.
‘What?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.
‘This here, Sir,’ rejoined Sam. ‘I’m wery much afeerd, sir, that th_roperiator o’ this here coach is a playin’ some imperence vith us.’
‘How is that, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘aren’t the names down on th_ay–bill?’
‘The names is not only down on the vay–bill, Sir,’ replied Sam, ‘but they’v_ainted vun on ’em up, on the door o’ the coach.’ As Sam spoke, he pointed t_hat part of the coach door on which the proprietor’s name usually appears; and there, sure enough, in gilt letters of a goodly size, was the magic nam_f Pickwick!
‘Dear me,’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite staggered by the coincidence; ‘what _ery extraordinary thing!’
‘Yes, but that ain’t all,’ said Sam, again directing his master’s attention t_he coach door; ‘not content vith writin’ up “Pick–wick,” they puts “Moses” afore it, vich I call addin’ insult to injury, as the parrot said ven they no_nly took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langwidg_rterwards.’
‘It’s odd enough, certainly, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but if we stand talkin_ere, we shall lose our places.’
‘Wot, ain’t nothin’ to be done in consequence, sir?’ exclaimed Sam, perfectl_ghast at the coolness with which Mr. Pickwick prepared to ensconce himsel_nside.
‘Done!’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘What should be done?’ ‘Ain’t nobody to be whoppe_or takin’ this here liberty, sir?’ said Mr. Weller, who had expected that a_east he would have been commissioned to challenge the guard and the coachma_o a pugilistic encounter on the spot.
‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick eagerly; ‘not on any account. Jump up t_our seat directly.’
‘I am wery much afeered,’ muttered Sam to himself, as he turned away, ‘tha_omethin’ queer’s come over the governor, or he’d never ha’ stood this s_uiet. I hope that ‘ere trial hasn’t broke his spirit, but it looks bad, wer_ad.’ Mr. Weller shook his head gravely; and it is worthy of remark, as a_llustration of the manner in which he took this circumstance to heart, tha_e did not speak another word until the coach reached the Kensington turnpike.
Which was so long a time for him to remain taciturn, that the fact may b_onsidered wholly unprecedented.
Nothing worthy of special mention occurred during the journey. Mr. Dowle_elated a variety of anecdotes, all illustrative of his own personal prowes_nd desperation, and appealed to Mrs. Dowler in corroboration thereof; whe_rs. Dowler invariably brought in, in the form of an appendix, some remarkabl_act or circumstance which Mr. Dowler had forgotten, or had perhaps throug_odesty, omitted; for the addenda in every instance went to show that Mr.
Dowler was even a more wonderful fellow than he made himself out to be. Mr.
Pickwick and Mr. Winkle listened with great admiration, and at interval_onversed with Mrs. Dowler, who was a very agreeable and fascinating person.
So, what between Mr. Dowler’s stories, and Mrs. Dowler’s charms, and Mr.
Pickwick’s good–humour, and Mr. Winkle’s good listening, the insides contrive_o be very companionable all the way. The outsides did as outsides always do.
They were very cheerful and talkative at the beginning of every stage, an_ery dismal and sleepy in the middle, and very bright and wakeful agai_owards the end. There was one young gentleman in an India–rubber cloak, wh_moked cigars all day; and there was another young gentleman in a parody upo_ greatcoat, who lighted a good many, and feeling obviously unsettled afte_he second whiff, threw them away when he thought nobody was looking at him.
There was a third young man on the box who wished to be learned in cattle; an_n old one behind, who was familiar with farming. There was a constan_uccession of Christian names in smock–frocks and white coats, who wer_nvited to have a ‘lift’ by the guard, and who knew every horse and hostler o_he road and off it; and there was a dinner which would have been cheap a_alf–a–crown a mouth, if any moderate number of mouths could have eaten it i_he time. And at seven o’clock P.m. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr.
Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting–rooms a_he White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, where the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destro_he illusion by behaving themselves much better. Breakfast had scarcely bee_leared away on the succeeding morning, when a waiter brought in Mr. Dowler’_ard, with a request to be allowed permission to introduce a friend. Mr.
Dowler at once followed up the delivery of the card, by bringing himself an_he friend also.
The friend was a charming young man of not much more than fifty, dressed in _ery bright blue coat with resplendent buttons, black trousers, and th_hinnest possible pair of highly–polished boots. A gold eye–glass wa_uspended from his neck by a short, broad, black ribbon; a gold snuff–box wa_ightly clasped in his left hand; gold rings innumerable glittered on hi_ingers; and a large diamond pin set in gold glistened in his shirt frill. H_ad a gold watch, and a gold curb chain with large gold seals; and he carrie_ pliant ebony cane with a gold top. His linen was of the very whitest, finest, and stiffest; his wig of the glossiest, blackest, and curliest. Hi_nuff was princes’ mixture; his scent bouquet du roi. His features wer_ontracted into a perpetual smile; and his teeth were in such perfect orde_hat it was difficult at a small distance to tell the real from the false.
‘Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mr. Dowler; ‘my friend, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C.; Bantam; Mr. Pickwick. Know each other.’
‘Welcome to Ba–ath, Sir. This is indeed an acquisition. Most welcome t_a–ath, sir. It is long—very long, Mr. Pickwick, since you drank the waters.
It appears an age, Mr. Pickwick. Re–markable!’
Such were the expressions with which Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., too_r. Pickwick’s hand; retaining it in his, meantime, and shrugging up hi_houlders with a constant succession of bows, as if he really could not mak_p his mind to the trial of letting it go again.
‘It is a very long time since I drank the waters, certainly,’ replied Mr.
Pickwick; ‘for, to the best of my knowledge, I was never here before.’
‘Never in Ba–ath, Mr. Pickwick!’ exclaimed the Grand Master, letting the han_all in astonishment. ‘Never in Ba–ath! He! he! Mr. Pickwick, you are a wag.
Not bad, not bad. Good, good. He! he! he! Re–markable!’
‘To my shame, I must say that I am perfectly serious,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick.
‘I really never was here before.’
‘Oh, I see,’ exclaimed the Grand Master, looking extremely pleased; ‘yes, yes—good, good—better and better. You are the gentleman of whom we have heard.
Yes; we know you, Mr. Pickwick; we know you.’
‘The reports of the trial in those confounded papers,’ thought Mr. Pickwick.
‘They have heard all about me.’ ‘You are the gentleman residing on Clapha_reen,’ resumed Bantam, ‘who lost the use of his limbs from imprudently takin_old after port wine; who could not be moved in consequence of acut_uffering, and who had the water from the king’s bath bottled at one hundre_nd three degrees, and sent by wagon to his bedroom in town, where he bathed, sneezed, and the same day recovered. Very remarkable!’
Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment which the supposition implied, bu_ad the self–denial to repudiate it, notwithstanding; and taking advantage o_ moment’s silence on the part of the M.C., begged to introduce his friends, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass. An introduction which overwhelme_he M.C. with delight and honour.
‘Bantam,’ said Mr. Dowler, ‘Mr. Pickwick and his friends are strangers. The_ust put their names down. Where’s the book?’
‘The register of the distinguished visitors in Ba–ath will be at the Pump Roo_his morning at two o’clock,’ replied the M.C. ‘Will you guide our friends t_hat splendid building, and enable me to procure their autographs?’
‘I will,’ rejoined Dowler. ‘This is a long call. It’s time to go. I shall b_ere again in an hour. Come.’
‘This is a ball–night,’ said the M.C., again taking Mr. Pickwick’s hand, as h_ose to go. ‘The ball–nights in Ba–ath are moments snatched from paradise; rendered bewitching by music, beauty, elegance, fashion, etiquette, and—and—above all, by the absence of tradespeople, who are quite inconsisten_ith paradise, and who have an amalgamation of themselves at the Guildhal_very fortnight, which is, to say the least, remarkable. Good–bye, good–bye!’ and protesting all the way downstairs that he was most satisfied, and mos_elighted, and most overpowered, and most flattered, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., stepped into a very elegant chariot that waited at the door, and rattled off.
At the appointed hour, Mr. Pickwick and his friends, escorted by Dowler, repaired to the Assembly Rooms, and wrote their names down in the book—a_nstance of condescension at which Angelo Bantam was even more overpowere_han before. Tickets of admission to that evening’s assembly were to have bee_repared for the whole party, but as they were not ready, Mr. Pickwic_ndertook, despite all the protestations to the contrary of Angelo Bantam, t_end Sam for them at four o’clock in the afternoon, to the M.C.‘s house i_ueen Square. Having taken a short walk through the city, and arrived at th_nanimous conclusion that Park Street was very much like the perpendicula_treets a man sees in a dream, which he cannot get up for the life of him, they returned to the White Hart, and despatched Sam on the errand to which hi_aster had pledged him.
Sam Weller put on his hat in a very easy and graceful manner, and, thrustin_is hands in his waistcoat pockets, walked with great deliberation to Quee_quare, whistling as he went along, several of the most popular airs of th_ay, as arranged with entirely new movements for that noble instrument th_rgan, either mouth or barrel. Arriving at the number in Queen Square to whic_e had been directed, he left off whistling and gave a cheerful knock, whic_as instantaneously answered by a powdered–headed footman in gorgeous livery, and of symmetrical stature.
‘is this here Mr. Bantam’s, old feller?’ inquired Sam Weller, nothing abashe_y the blaze of splendour which burst upon his sight in the person of th_owdered–headed footman with the gorgeous livery.
‘Why, young man?’ was the haughty inquiry of the powdered–headed footman.
‘‘Cos if it is, jist you step in to him with that ‘ere card, and say Mr.
Veller’s a–waitin’, will you?’ said Sam. And saying it, he very coolly walke_nto the hall, and sat down.
The powdered–headed footman slammed the door very hard, and scowled ver_randly; but both the slam and the scowl were lost upon Sam, who was regardin_ mahogany umbrella–stand with every outward token of critical approval.
Apparently his master’s reception of the card had impressed th_owdered–headed footman in Sam’s favour, for when he came back from deliverin_t, he smiled in a friendly manner, and said that the answer would be read_irectly.
‘Wery good,’ said Sam. ‘Tell the old gen’l’m’n not to put himself in _erspiration. No hurry, six–foot. I’ve had my dinner.’
‘You dine early, sir,’ said the powdered–headed footman.
‘I find I gets on better at supper when I does,’ replied Sam.
‘Have you been long in Bath, sir?’ inquired the powdered–headed footman. ‘_ave not had the pleasure of hearing of you before.’
‘I haven’t created any wery surprisin’ sensation here, as yet,’ rejoined Sam, ‘for me and the other fash’nables only come last night.’
‘Nice place, Sir,’ said the powdered–headed footman.
‘Seems so,’ observed Sam.
‘Pleasant society, sir,’ remarked the powdered–headed footman. ‘Very agreeabl_ervants, sir.’
‘I should think they wos,’ replied Sam. ‘Affable, unaffected, say–nothin’–to–nobody sorts o’ fellers.’
‘Oh, very much so, indeed, sir,’ said the powdered–headed footman, takin_am’s remarks as a high compliment. ‘Very much so indeed. Do you do anythin_n this way, Sir?’ inquired the tall footman, producing a small snuff–box wit_ fox’s head on the top of it.
‘Not without sneezing,’ replied Sam.
‘Why, it is difficult, sir, I confess,’ said the tall footman. ‘It may be don_y degrees, Sir. Coffee is the best practice. I carried coffee, Sir, for _ong time. It looks very like rappee, sir.’
Here, a sharp peal at the bell reduced the powdered–headed footman to th_gnominious necessity of putting the fox’s head in his pocket, and hastenin_ith a humble countenance to Mr. Bantam’s ‘study.’ By the bye, who ever knew _an who never read or wrote either, who hadn’t got some small back parlou_hich he would call a study!
‘There is the answer, sir,’ said the powdered–headed footman. ‘I’m afrai_ou’ll find it inconveniently large.’
‘Don’t mention it,’ said Sam, taking a letter with a small enclosure. ‘It’_ust possible as exhausted natur’ may manage to surwive it.’
‘I hope we shall meet again, Sir,’ said the powdered–headed footman, rubbin_is hands, and following Sam out to the door–step.
‘You are wery obligin’, sir,’ replied Sam. ‘Now, don’t allow yourself to b_atigued beyond your powers; there’s a amiable bein’. Consider what you owe t_ociety, and don’t let yourself be injured by too much work. For the sake o’ your feller–creeturs, keep yourself as quiet as you can; only think what _oss you would be!’ With these pathetic words, Sam Weller departed.
‘A very singular young man that,’ said the powdered–headed footman, lookin_fter Mr. Weller, with a countenance which clearly showed he could mak_othing of him.
Sam said nothing at all. He winked, shook his head, smiled, winked again; and, with an expression of countenance which seemed to denote that he was greatl_mused with something or other, walked merrily away.
At precisely twenty minutes before eight o’clock that night, Angelo Cyru_antam, Esq., the Master of the Ceremonies, emerged from his chariot at th_oor of the Assembly Rooms in the same wig, the same teeth, the sam_ye–glass, the same watch and seals, the same rings, the same shirt–pin, an_he same cane. The only observable alterations in his appearance were, that h_ore a brighter blue coat, with a white silk lining, black tights, black sil_tockings, and pumps, and a white waistcoat, and was, if possible, just _hought more scented.
Thus attired, the Master of the Ceremonies, in strict discharge of th_mportant duties of his all–important office, planted himself in the room t_eceive the company.
Bath being full, the company, and the sixpences for tea, poured in, in shoals.
In the ballroom, the long card–room, the octagonal card–room, the staircases, and the passages, the hum of many voices, and the sound of many feet, wer_erfectly bewildering. Dresses rustled, feathers waved, lights shone, an_ewels sparkled. There was the music—not of the quadrille band, for it had no_et commenced; but the music of soft, tiny footsteps, with now and then _lear, merry laugh—low and gentle, but very pleasant to hear in a femal_oice, whether in Bath or elsewhere. Brilliant eyes, lighted up wit_leasurable expectation, gleamed from every side; and, look where you would, some exquisite form glided gracefully through the throng, and was no soone_ost, than it was replaced by another as dainty and bewitching.
In the tea–room, and hovering round the card–tables, were a vast number o_ueer old ladies, and decrepit old gentlemen, discussing all the small tal_nd scandal of the day, with a relish and gusto which sufficiently bespoke th_ntensity of the pleasure they derived from the occupation. Mingled with thes_roups, were three or four match–making mammas, appearing to be wholl_bsorbed by the conversation in which they were taking part, but failing no_rom time to time to cast an anxious sidelong glance upon their daughters, who, remembering the maternal injunction to make the best use of their youth, had already commenced incipient flirtations in the mislaying scarves, puttin_n gloves, setting down cups, and so forth; slight matters apparently, bu_hich may be turned to surprisingly good account by expert practitioners.
Lounging near the doors, and in remote corners, were various knots of sill_oung men, displaying various varieties of puppyism and stupidity; amusing al_ensible people near them with their folly and conceit; and happily thinkin_hemselves the objects of general admiration—a wise and merciful dispensatio_hich no good man will quarrel with.
And lastly, seated on some of the back benches, where they had already take_p their positions for the evening, were divers unmarried ladies past thei_rand climacteric, who, not dancing because there were no partners for them, and not playing cards lest they should be set down as irretrievably single, were in the favourable situation of being able to abuse everybody withou_eflecting on themselves. In short, they could abuse everybody, becaus_verybody was there. It was a scene of gaiety, glitter, and show; o_ichly–dressed people, handsome mirrors, chalked floors, girandoles an_ax–candles; and in all parts of the scene, gliding from spot to spot i_ilent softness, bowing obsequiously to this party, nodding familiarly t_hat, and smiling complacently on all, was the sprucely–attired person o_ngelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, the Master of the Ceremonies.
‘Stop in the tea–room. Take your sixpenn’orth. Then lay on hot water, and cal_t tea. Drink it,’ said Mr. Dowler, in a loud voice, directing Mr. Pickwick, who advanced at the head of the little party, with Mrs. Dowler on his arm.
Into the tea–room Mr. Pickwick turned; and catching sight of him, Mr. Banta_orkscrewed his way through the crowd and welcomed him with ecstasy.
‘My dear Sir, I am highly honoured. Ba–ath is favoured. Mrs. Dowler, yo_mbellish the rooms. I congratulate you on your feathers. Re–markable!’
‘Anybody here?’ inquired Dowler suspiciously.
‘Anybody! The elite of Ba–ath. Mr. Pickwick, do you see the old lady in th_auze turban?’
‘The fat old lady?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick innocently.
‘Hush, my dear sir—nobody’s fat or old in Ba–ath. That’s the Dowager Lad_nuphanuph.’
‘Is it, indeed?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘No less a person, I assure you,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies. ‘Hush.
Draw a little nearer, Mr. Pickwick. You see the splendidly–dressed young ma_oming this way?’
‘The one with the long hair, and the particularly small forehead?’ inquire_r. Pickwick.
‘The same. The richest young man in Ba–ath at this moment. Young Lor_utanhed.’
‘You don’t say so?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Yes. You’ll hear his voice in a moment, Mr. Pickwick. He’ll speak to me. Th_ther gentleman with him, in the red under–waistcoat and dark moustache, i_he Honourable Mr. Crushton, his bosom friend. How do you do, my Lord?’
‘Veway hot, Bantam,’ said his Lordship.
‘It is very warm, my Lord,’ replied the M.C.
‘Confounded,’ assented the Honourable Mr. Crushton.
‘Have you seen his Lordship’s mail–cart, Bantam?’ inquired the Honourable Mr.
Crushton, after a short pause, during which young Lord Mutanhed had bee_ndeavouring to stare Mr. Pickwick out of countenance, and Mr. Crushton ha_een reflecting what subject his Lordship could talk about best.
‘Dear me, no,’ replied the M.C.‘A mail–cart! What an excellent idea.
‘Gwacious heavens!’ said his Lordship, ‘I thought evewebody had seen the ne_ail–cart; it’s the neatest, pwettiest, gwacefullest thing that ever wan upo_heels. Painted wed, with a cweam piebald.’
‘With a real box for the letters, and all complete,’ said the Honourable Mr.
‘And a little seat in fwont, with an iwon wail, for the dwiver,’ added hi_ordship. ‘I dwove it over to Bwistol the other morning, in a cwimson coat, with two servants widing a quarter of a mile behind; and confound me if th_eople didn’t wush out of their cottages, and awest my pwogwess, to know if _asn’t the post. Glorwious—glorwious!’
At this anecdote his Lordship laughed very heartily, as did the listeners, o_ourse. Then, drawing his arm through that of the obsequious Mr. Crushton, Lord Mutanhed walked away.
‘Delightful young man, his Lordship,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies.
‘So I should think,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick drily.
The dancing having commenced, the necessary introductions having been made, and all preliminaries arranged, Angelo Bantam rejoined Mr. Pickwick, and le_im into the card–room.
Just at the very moment of their entrance, the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph and tw_ther ladies of an ancient and whist–like appearance, were hovering over a_noccupied card–table; and they no sooner set eyes upon Mr. Pickwick under th_onvoy of Angelo Bantam, than they exchanged glances with each other, seein_hat he was precisely the very person they wanted, to make up the rubber.
‘My dear Bantam,’ said the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph coaxingly, ‘find us som_ice creature to make up this table; there’s a good soul.’ Mr. Pickwic_appened to be looking another way at the moment, so her Ladyship nodded he_ead towards him, and frowned expressively.
‘My friend Mr. Pickwick, my Lady, will be most happy, I am sure, remarkabl_o,’ said the M.C., taking the hint. ‘Mr. Pickwick, Lady Snuphanuph—Mrs.
Colonel Wugsby—Miss Bolo.’
Mr. Pickwick bowed to each of the ladies, and, finding escape impossible, cut.
Mr. Pickwick and Miss Bolo against Lady Snuphanuph and Mrs. Colonel Wugsby. A_he trump card was turned up, at the commencement of the second deal, tw_oung ladies hurried into the room, and took their stations on either side o_rs. Colonel Wugsby’s chair, where they waited patiently until the hand wa_ver.
‘Now, Jane,’ said Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, turning to one of the girls, ‘what i_t?’ ‘I came to ask, ma, whether I might dance with the youngest Mr. Crawley,’ whispered the prettier and younger of the two.
‘Good God, Jane, how can you think of such things?’ replied the mamm_ndignantly. ‘Haven’t you repeatedly heard that his father has eight hundred _ear, which dies with him? I am ashamed of you. Not on any account.’
‘Ma,’ whispered the other, who was much older than her sister, and ver_nsipid and artificial, ‘Lord Mutanhed has been introduced to me. I said _hought I wasn’t engaged, ma.’
‘You’re a sweet pet, my love,’ replied Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, tapping he_aughter’s cheek with her fan, ‘and are always to be trusted. He’s immensel_ich, my dear. Bless you!’ With these words Mrs. Colonel Wugsby kissed he_ldest daughter most affectionately, and frowning in a warning manner upon th_ther, sorted her cards.
Poor Mr. Pickwick! he had never played with three thorough–paced femal_ard–players before. They were so desperately sharp, that they quit_rightened him. If he played a wrong card, Miss Bolo looked a small armoury o_aggers; if he stopped to consider which was the right one, Lady Snuphanup_ould throw herself back in her chair, and smile with a mingled glance o_mpatience and pity to Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, at which Mrs. Colonel Wugsby woul_hrug up her shoulders, and cough, as much as to say she wondered whether h_ver would begin. Then, at the end of every hand, Miss Bolo would inquire wit_ dismal countenance and reproachful sigh, why Mr. Pickwick had not returne_hat diamond, or led the club, or roughed the spade, or finessed the heart, o_ed through the honour, or brought out the ace, or played up to the king, o_ome such thing; and in reply to all these grave charges, Mr. Pickwick woul_e wholly unable to plead any justification whatever, having by this tim_orgotten all about the game. People came and looked on, too, which made Mr.
Pickwick nervous. Besides all this, there was a great deal of distractin_onversation near the table, between Angelo Bantam and the two Misse_atinter, who, being single and singular, paid great court to the Master o_he Ceremonies, in the hope of getting a stray partner now and then. All thes_hings, combined with the noises and interruptions of constant comings in an_oings out, made Mr. Pickwick play rather badly; the cards were against him, also; and when they left off at ten minutes past eleven, Miss Bolo rose fro_he table considerably agitated, and went straight home, in a flood of tear_nd a sedan–chair.
Being joined by his friends, who one and all protested that they had scarcel_ver spent a more pleasant evening, Mr. Pickwick accompanied them to the Whit_art, and having soothed his feelings with something hot, went to bed, and t_leep, almost simultaneously.