小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » 匹克威克外传 Pickwick Papers » Chapter 16
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 16

here is no month in the whole year in which nature wearsa more beautiful appearance than in the month of August.

  Spring has many beauties, and May is a fresh andblooming month, but the charms of this time of year are enhancedby their contrast with the winter season. August has no suchadvantage. It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies,green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers―when the recollection ofsnow, and ice, and bleak winds, has faded from our minds ascompletely as they have disappeared from the earth―and yetwhat a pleasant time it is! Orchards and cornfields ring with thehum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruitwhich bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled ingraceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweepsabove it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with agolden hue. A mellow softness appears to hang over the wholeearth; the influence of the season seems to extend itself to the verywagon, whose slow motion across the well-reaped field isperceptible only to the eye, but strikes with no harsh sound uponthe ear.

  As the coach rolls swiftly past the fields and orchards whichskirt the road, groups of women and children, piling the fruit insieves, or gathering the scattered ears of corn, pause for an instantfrom their labour, and shading the sun-burned face with a stillbrowner hand, gaze upon the passengers with curious eyes, whilesome stout urchin, too small to work, but too mischievous to be leftat home, scrambles over the side of the basket in which he hasbeen deposited for security, and kicks and screams with delight.

  The reaper stops in his work, and stands with folded arms, lookingat the vehicle as it whirls past; and the rough cart-horses bestow asleepy glance upon the smart coach team, which says as plainly asa horse’s glance can, ‘It’s all very fine to look at, but slow going,over a heavy field, is better than warm work like that, upon adusty road, after all.’ You cast a look behind you, as you turn acorner of the road. The women and children have resumed theirlabour; the reaper once more stoops to his work; the cart-horseshave moved on; and all are again in motion. The influence of ascene like this, was not lost upon the well-regulated mind of Mr.

  Pickwick. Intent upon the resolution he had formed, of exposingthe real character of the nefarious Jingle, in any quarter in whichhe might be pursuing his fraudulent designs, he sat at firsttaciturn and contemplative, brooding over the means by which hispurpose could be best attained. By degrees his attention grewmore and more attracted by the objects around him; and at last hederived as much enjoyment from the ride, as if it had beenundertaken for the pleasantest reason in the world.

  ‘Delightful prospect, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Beats the chimbley-pots, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, touching hishat.

  ‘I suppose you have hardly seen anything but chimney-pots andbricks and mortar all your life, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, smiling.

  ‘I worn’t always a boots, sir,’ said Mr. Weller, with a shake of thehead. ‘I wos a wagginer’s boy, once.’

  ‘When was that?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘When I wos first pitched neck and crop into the world, to playat leap-frog with its troubles,’ replied Sam. ‘I wos a carrier’s boy atstartin’; then a wagginer’s, then a helper, then a boots. Now I’m agen’l’m’n’s servant. I shall be a gen’l’m’n myself one of these days,perhaps, with a pipe in my mouth, and a summer-house in theback-garden. Who knows? I shouldn’t be surprised for one.’

  ‘You are quite a philosopher, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘It runs in the family, I b’lieve, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Myfather’s wery much in that line now. If my mother-in-law blowshim up, he whistles. She flies in a passion, and breaks his pipe; hesteps out, and gets another. Then she screams wery loud, and fallsinto ‘sterics; and he smokes wery comfortably till she comes toagin. That’s philosophy, sir, ain’t it?’

  ‘A very good substitute for it, at all events,’ replied Mr.

  Pickwick, laughing. ‘It must have been of great service to you, inthe course of your rambling life, Sam.’

  ‘Service, sir,’ exclaimed Sam. ‘You may say that. Arter I runaway from the carrier, and afore I took up with the vaginer, I hadunfurnished lodgin’s for a fortnight.’

  ‘Unfurnished lodgings?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Yes―the dry arches of Waterloo Bridge. Fine sleeping-place―vithin ten minutes’ walk of all the public offices―only if there isany objection to it, it is that the sitivation’s rayther too airy. I seesome queer sights there.’

  ‘Ah, I suppose you did,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with an air ofconsiderable interest.

  ‘Sights, sir,’ resumed Mr. Weller, ‘as ’ud penetrate yourbenevolent heart, and come out on the other side. You don’t seethe reg’lar wagrants there; trust ’em, they knows better than that.

  Young beggars, male and female, as hasn’t made a rise in theirprofession, takes up their quarters there sometimes; but it’sgenerally the worn-out, starving, houseless creeturs as rollthemselves in the dark corners o’ them lonesome places―poorcreeturs as ain’t up to the twopenny rope.’

  ‘And pray, Sam, what is the twopenny rope?’ inquired Mr.

  Pickwick.

  ‘The twopenny rope, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘is just a cheaplodgin’ house, where the beds is twopence a night.’

  ‘What do they call a bed a rope for?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Bless your innocence, sir, that ain’t it,’ replied Sam. ‘When thelady and gen’l’m’n as keeps the Hot-el first begun business, theyused to make the beds on the floor; but this wouldn’t do at noprice, ‘cos instead o’ taking a moderate twopenn’orth o’ sleep, thelodgers used to lie there half the day. So now they has two ropes,’bout six foot apart, and three from the floor, which goes rightdown the room; and the beds are made of slips of coarse sacking,stretched across ’em.’

  ‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Well,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘the adwantage o’ the plan’s hobvious.

  At six o’clock every mornin’ they let’s go the ropes at one end, anddown falls the lodgers. Consequence is, that being thoroughlywaked, they get up wery quietly, and walk away! Beg your pardon,sir,’ said Sam, suddenly breaking off in his loquacious discourse.

  ‘Is this Bury St. Edmunds?’

  ‘It is,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

  The coach rattled through the well-paved streets of a handsomelittle town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped beforea large inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the oldabbey.

  ‘And this,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking up. ‘Is the Angel! Wealight here, Sam. But some caution is necessary. Order a privateroom, and do not mention my name. You understand.’

  ‘Right as a trivet, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, with a wink ofintelligence; and having dragged Mr. Pickwick’s portmanteaufrom the hind boot, into which it had been hastily thrown whenthey joined the coach at Eatanswill, Mr. Weller disappeared on hiserrand. A private room was speedily engaged; and into it Mr.

  Pickwick was ushered without delay. ‘Now, Sam,’ said Mr.

  Pickwick, ‘the first thing to be done is to―’

  ‘Order dinner, sir,’ interposed Mr. Weller. ‘It’s wery late, sir.”

  ‘Ah, so it is,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking at his watch. ‘You areright, Sam.’

  ‘And if I might adwise, sir,’ added Mr. Weller, ‘I’d just have agood night’s rest arterwards, and not begin inquiring arter thishere deep ’un till the mornin’. There’s nothin’ so refreshen’ assleep, sir, as the servant girl said afore she drank the egg-cupful oflaudanum.’

  ‘I think you are right, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘But I must firstascertain that he is in the house, and not likely to go away.’

  ‘Leave that to me, sir,’ said Sam. ‘Let me order you a snug littledinner, and make my inquiries below while it’s a-getting ready; Icould worm ev’ry secret out O’ the boots’s heart, in five minutes,sir.’

  ‘Do so,’ said Mr. Pickwick; and Mr. Weller at once retired.

  In half an hour, Mr. Pickwick was seated at a very satisfactorydinner; and in three-quarters Mr. Weller returned with theintelligence that Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall had ordered his privateroom to be retained for him, until further notice. He was going tospend the evening at some private house in the neighbourhood,had ordered the boots to sit up until his return, and had taken hisservant with him.

  ‘Now, sir,’ argued Mr. Weller, when he had concluded hisreport, ‘if I can get a talk with this here servant in the mornin’,he’ll tell me all his master’s concerns.’

  ‘How do you know that?’ interposed Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Bless your heart, sir, servants always do,’ replied Mr. Weller.

  ‘Oh, ah, I forgot that,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Well.’

  ‘Then you can arrange what’s best to be done, sir, and we canact accordingly.’

  As it appeared that this was the best arrangement that could bemade, it was finally agreed upon. Mr. Weller, by his master’spermission, retired to spend the evening in his own way; and wasshortly afterwards elected, by the unanimous voice of theassembled company, into the taproom chair, in which honourablepost he acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of thegentlemen-frequenters, that their roars of laughter andapprobation penetrated to Mr. Pickwick’s bedroom, and shortenedthe term of his natural rest by at least three hours.

  Early on the ensuing morning, Mr. Weller was dispelling all thefeverish remains of the previous evening’s conviviality, throughthe instrumentality of a halfpenny shower-bath (having induced ayoung gentleman attached to the stable department, by the offer ofthat coin, to pump over his head and face, until he was perfectlyrestored), when he was attracted by the appearance of a youngfellow in mulberry-coloured livery, who was sitting on a bench inthe yard, reading what appeared to be a hymn-book, with an air ofdeep abstraction, but who occasionally stole a glance at theindividual under the pump, as if he took some interest in hisproceedings, nevertheless.

  ‘You’re a rum ’un to look at, you are!’ thought Mr. Weller, thefirst time his eyes encountered the glance of the stranger in themulberry suit, who had a large, sallow, ugly face, very sunkeneyes, and a gigantic head, from which depended a quantity of lankblack hair. ‘You’re a rum ’un!’ thought Mr. Weller; and thinkingthis, he went on washing himself, and thought no more about him.

  Still the man kept glancing from his hymn-book to Sam, andfrom Sam to his hymn-book, as if he wanted to open aconversation. So at last, Sam, by way of giving him an opportunity,said with a familiar nod―‘How are you, governor?’

  ‘I am happy to say, I am pretty well, sir,’ said the man, speakingwith great deliberation, and closing the book. ‘I hope you are thesame, sir?’

  ‘Why, if I felt less like a walking brandy-bottle I shouldn’t bequite so staggery this mornin’,’ replied Sam. ‘Are you stoppin’ inthis house, old ’un ?’

  The mulberry man replied in the affirmative.

  ‘How was it you worn’t one of us, last night?’ inquired Sam,scrubbing his face with the towel. ‘You seem one of the jolly sort―looks as conwivial as a live trout in a lime basket,’ added Mr.

  Weller, in an undertone.

  ‘I was out last night with my master,’ replied the stranger.

  ‘What’s his name?’ inquired Mr. Weller, colouring up very redwith sudden excitement, and the friction of the towel combined.

  ‘Fitz-Marshall,’ said the mulberry man.

  ‘Give us your hand,’ said Mr. Weller, advancing; ‘I should like toknow you. I like your appearance, old fellow.’

  ‘Well, that is very strange,’ said the mulberry man, with greatsimplicity of manner. ‘I like yours so much, that I wanted to speakto you, from the very first moment I saw you under the pump.’

  ‘Did you though?’ ‘Upon my word. Now, isn’t that curious?’

  ‘Wery sing’ler,’ said Sam, inwardly congratulating himself uponthe softness of the stranger. ‘What’s your name, my patriarch?’

  ‘Job.’

  ‘And a wery good name it is; only one I know that ain’t got anickname to it. What’s the other name?’

  ‘Trotter,’ said the stranger. ‘What is yours?’

  Sam bore in mind his master’s caution, and replied―‘My name’s Walker; my master’s name’s Wilkins. Will you takea drop o’ somethin’ this mornin’, Mr. Trotter?’

  Mr. Trotter acquiesced in this agreeable proposal; and havingdeposited his book in his coat pocket, accompanied Mr. Weller tothe tap, where they were soon occupied in discussing anexhilarating compound, formed by mixing together, in a pewtervessel, certain quantities of British Hollands and the fragrantessence of the clove.

  ‘And what sort of a place have you got?’ inquired Sam, as hefilled his companion’s glass, for the second time.

  ‘Bad,’ said Job, smacking his lips, ‘very bad.’

  ‘You don’t mean that?’ said Sam.

  ‘I do, indeed. Worse than that, my master’s going to bemarried.’

  ‘No.’

  ‘Yes; and worse than that, too, he’s going to run away with animmense rich heiress, from boarding-school.’

  ‘What a dragon!’ said Sam, refilling his companion’s glass. ‘It’ssome boarding-school in this town, I suppose, ain’t it?’ Now,although this question was put in the most careless toneimaginable, Mr. Job Trotter plainly showed by gestures that heperceived his new friend’s anxiety to draw forth an answer to it.

  He emptied his glass, looked mysteriously at his companion,winked both of his small eyes, one after the other, and finallymade a motion with his arm, as if he were working an imaginarypump-handle; thereby intimating that he (Mr. Trotter) consideredhimself as undergoing the process of being pumped by Mr.

  Samuel Weller.

  ‘No, no,’ said Mr. Trotter, in conclusion, ‘that’s not to be told toeverybody. That is a secret―a great secret, Mr. Walker.’ As themulberry man said this, he turned his glass upside down, by wayof reminding his companion that he had nothing left wherewith toslake his thirst. Sam observed the hint; and feeling the delicatemanner in which it was conveyed, ordered the pewter vessel to berefilled, whereat the small eyes of the mulberry man glistened.

  ‘And so it’s a secret?’ said Sam.

  ‘I should rather suspect it was,’ said the mulberry man, sippinghis liquor, with a complacent face.

  ‘I suppose your mas’r’s wery rich?’ said Sam.

  Mr. Trotter smiled, and holding his glass in his left hand, gavefour distinct slaps on the pockets of his mulberry indescribableswith his right, as if to intimate that his master might have done thesame without alarming anybody much by the chinking of coin.

   ‘Ah,’ said Sam, ‘that’s the game, is it?’

  The mulberry man nodded significantly.

  ‘Well, and don’t you think, old feller,’ remonstrated Mr. Weller,‘that if you let your master take in this here young lady, you’re aprecious rascal?’

  ‘I know that,’ said Job Trotter, turning upon his companion acountenance of deep contrition, and groaning slightly, ‘I knowthat, and that’s what it is that preys upon my mind. But what am Ito do?’

  ‘Do!’ said Sam; ‘di-wulge to the missis, and give up yourmaster.’

  ‘Who’d believe me?’ replied Job Trotter. ‘The young lady’sconsidered the very picture of innocence and discretion. She’ddeny it, and so would my master. Who’d believe me? I should losemy place, and get indicted for a conspiracy, or some such thing;that’s all I should take by my motion.’

  ‘There’s somethin’ in that,’ said Sam, ruminating; ‘there’ssomethin’ in that.’

  ‘If I knew any respectable gentleman who would take thematter up,’ continued Mr. Trotter. ‘I might have some hope ofpreventing the elopement; but there’s the same difficulty, Mr.

  Walker, just the same. I know no gentleman in this strange place;and ten to one if I did, whether he would believe my story.’

  ‘Come this way,’ said Sam, suddenly jumping up, and graspingthe mulberry man by the arm. ‘My mas’r’s the man you want, Isee.’ And after a slight resistance on the part of Job Trotter, Samled his newly-found friend to the apartment of Mr. Pickwick, towhom he presented him, together with a brief summary of thedialogue we have just repeated.

  ‘I am very sorry to betray my master, sir,’ said Job Trotter,applying to his eyes a pink checked pocket-handkerchief about sixinches square.

  ‘The feeling does you a great deal of honour,’ replied Mr.

  Pickwick; ‘but it is your duty, nevertheless.’

  ‘I know it is my duty, sir,’ replied Job, with great emotion. ‘Weshould all try to discharge our duty, sir, and I humbly endeavourto discharge mine, sir; but it is a hard trial to betray a master, sir,whose clothes you wear, and whose bread you eat, even though heis a scoundrel, sir.’

  ‘You are a very good fellow,’ said Mr. Pickwick, much affected;‘an honest fellow.’

  ‘Come, come,’ interposed Sam, who had witnessed Mr. Trotter’stears with considerable impatience, ‘blow this ’ere water-cartbis’ness. It won’t do no good, this won’t.’

  ‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick reproachfully. ‘I am sorry to find thatyou have so little respect for this young man’s feelings.’

  ‘His feelin’s is all wery well, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘and asthey’re so wery fine, and it’s a pity he should lose ’em, I think he’dbetter keep ’em in his own buzzum, than let ’em ewaporate in hotwater, ’specially as they do no good. Tears never yet wound up aclock, or worked a steam ingin’. The next time you go out to asmoking party, young fellow, fill your pipe with that ’ere reflection;and for the present just put that bit of pink gingham into yourpocket. ‘Tain’t so handsome that you need keep waving it about, asif you was a tight-rope dancer.’

  ‘My man is in the right,’ said Mr. Pickwick, accosting Job,‘although his mode of expressing his opinion is somewhat homely,and occasionally incomprehensible.’

  ‘He is, sir, very right,’ said Mr. Trotter, ‘and I will give way nolonger.’

  ‘Very well,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Now, where is this boarding-school?’

  ‘It is a large, old, red brick house, just outside the town, sir,’

  replied Job Trotter.

  ‘And when,’ said Mr. Pickwick―‘when is this villainous designto be carried into execution―when is this elopement to takeplace?’

  ‘To-night, sir,’ replied Job.

  ‘To-night!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. ‘This very night, sir,’

  replied Job Trotter. ‘That is what alarms me so much.’

  ‘Instant measures must be taken,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘I will seethe lady who keeps the establishment immediately.’

  ‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Job, ‘but that course of proceedingwill never do.’

  ‘Why not?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘My master, sir, is a very artful man.’

  ‘I know he is,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘And he has so wound himself round the old lady’s heart, sir,’

  resumed Job, ‘that she would believe nothing to his prejudice, ifyou went down on your bare knees, and swore it; especially as youhave no proof but the word of a servant, who, for anything sheknows (and my master would be sure to say so), was dischargedfor some fault, and does this in revenge.’

  ‘What had better be done, then?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Nothing but taking him in the very act of eloping, will convincethe old lady, sir,’ replied Job.

  ‘All them old cats will run their heads agin milestones,’

  observed Mr. Weller, in a parenthesis.

  ‘But this taking him in the very act of elopement, would be avery difficult thing to accomplish, I fear,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘I don’t know, sir,’ said Mr. Trotter, after a few moments’

  reflection. ‘I think it might be very easily done.’

  ‘How?’ was Mr. Pickwick’s inquiry.

  ‘Why,’ replied Mr. Trotter, ‘my master and I, being in theconfidence of the two servants, will be secreted in the kitchen atten o’clock. When the family have retired to rest, we shall comeout of the kitchen, and the young lady out of her bedroom. A post-chaise will be waiting, and away we go.’

  ‘Well?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were in waiting in thegarden behind, alone―’

  ‘Alone,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Why alone?’

  ‘I thought it very natural,’ replied Job, ‘that the old ladywouldn’t like such an unpleasant discovery to be made beforemore persons than can possibly be helped. The young lady, too,sir―consider her feelings.’

  ‘You are very right,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘The considerationevinces your delicacy of feeling. Go on; you are very right.’

  ‘Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were waiting in theback garden alone, and I was to let you in, at the door which opensinto it, from the end of the passage, at exactly half-past eleveno’clock, you would be just in the very moment of time to assist mein frustrating the designs of this bad man, by whom I have beenunfortunately ensnared.’ Here Mr. Trotter sighed deeply.

  ‘Don’t distress yourself on that account,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘ifhe had one grain of the delicacy of feeling which distinguishes you,humble as your station is, I should have some hopes of him.’

  Job Trotter bowed low; and in spite of Mr. Weller’s previousremonstrance, the tears again rose to his eyes.

  ‘I never see such a feller,’ said Sam, ‘Blessed if I don’t think he’sgot a main in his head as is always turned on.’

  ‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with great severity, ‘hold yourtongue.’

  ‘Wery well, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

  ‘I don’t like this plan,’ said Mr. Pickwick, after deep meditation.

  ‘Why cannot I communicate with the young lady’s friends?’

  ‘Because they live one hundred miles from here, sir,’ respondedJob Trotter.

  ‘That’s a clincher,’ said Mr. Weller, aside.

  ‘Then this garden,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick. ‘How am I to getinto it?’

  ‘The wall is very low, sir, and your servant will give you a legup.’

  ‘My servant will give me a leg up,’ repeated Mr. Pickwickmechanically. ‘You will be sure to be near this door that you speakof?’

  ‘You cannot mistake it, sir; it’s the only one that opens into thegarden. Tap at it when you hear the clock strike, and I will open itinstantly.’

  ‘I don’t like the plan,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but as I see no other,and as the happiness of this young lady’s whole life is at stake, Iadopt it. I shall be sure to be there.’

  Thus, for the second time, did Mr. Pickwick’s innate good-feeling involve him in an enterprise from which he would mostwillingly have stood aloof.

  ‘What is the name of the house?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Westgate House, sir. You turn a little to the right when you getto the end of the town; it stands by itself, some little distance offthe high road, with the name on a brass plate on the gate.’

  ‘I know it,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘I observed it once before, when Iwas in this town. You may depend upon me.’

  Mr. Trotter made another bow, and turned to depart, when Mr.

  Pickwick thrust a guinea into his hand.

  ‘You’re a fine fellow,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and I admire yourgoodness of heart. No thanks. Remember―eleven o’clock.’

  ‘There is no fear of my forgetting it, sir,’ replied Job Trotter.

  With these words he left the room, followed by Sam.

  ‘I say,’ said the latter, ‘not a bad notion that ’ere crying. I’d crylike a rain-water spout in a shower on such good terms. How doyou do it?’

  ‘It comes from the heart, Mr. Walker,’ replied Job solemnly.

  ‘Good-morning, sir.’

  ‘You’re a soft customer, you are; we’ve got it all out o’ you,anyhow,’ thought Mr. Weller, as Job walked away.

  We cannot state the precise nature of the thoughts whichpassed through Mr. Trotter’s mind, because we don’t know whatthey were.

  The day wore on, evening came, and at a little before teno’clock Sam Weller reported that Mr. Jingle and Job had gone outtogether, that their luggage was packed up, and that they hadordered a chaise. The plot was evidently in execution, as Mr.

  Trotter had foretold.

  Half-past ten o’clock arrived, and it was time for Mr. Pickwickto issue forth on his delicate errand. Resisting Sam’s tender of hisgreatcoat, in order that he might have no encumbrance in scalingthe wall, he set forth, followed by his attendant.

  There was a bright moon, but it was behind the clouds. it was afine dry night, but it was most uncommonly dark. Paths, hedges,fields, houses, and trees, were enveloped in one deep shade. Theatmosphere was hot and sultry, the summer lightning quiveredfaintly on the verge of the horizon, and was the only sight thatvaried the dull gloom in which everything was wrapped―soundthere was none, except the distant barking of some restless house-dog.

  They found the house, read the brass plate, walked round thewall, and stopped at that portion of it which divided them from thebottom of the garden.

  ‘You will return to the inn, Sam, when you have assisted meover,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Wery well, sir.’

  ‘And you will sit up, till I return.’

  ‘Cert’nly, sir.’

  ‘Take hold of my leg; and, when I say “Over,” raise me gently.’

  ‘All right, sir.’

  Having settled these preliminaries, Mr. Pickwick grasped thetop of the wall, and gave the word ‘Over,’ which was literallyobeyed. Whether his body partook in some degree of the elasticityof his mind, or whether Mr. Weller’s notions of a gentle push wereof a somewhat rougher description than Mr. Pickwick’s, theimmediate effect of his assistance was to jerk that immortalgentleman completely over the wall on to the bed beneath, where,after crushing three gooseberry-bushes and a rose-tree, he finallyalighted at full length.

  ‘You ha’n’t hurt yourself, I hope, sir?’ said Sam, in a loudwhisper, as soon as he had recovered from the surpriseconsequent upon the mysterious disappearance of his master.

  ‘I have not hurt myself, Sam, certainly,’ replied Mr. Pickwick,from the other side of the wall, ‘but I rather think that you havehurt me.’

  ‘I hope not, sir,’ said Sam.

  ‘Never mind,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rising, ‘it’s nothing but a fewscratches. Go away, or we shall be overheard.’

  ‘Good-bye, sir.’

  ‘Good-bye.’

  With stealthy steps Sam Weller departed, leaving Mr. Pickwickalone in the garden.

  Lights occasionally appeared in the different windows of thehouse, or glanced from the staircases, as if the inmates wereretiring to rest. Not caring to go too near the door, until theappointed time, Mr. Pickwick crouched into an angle of the wall,and awaited its arrival.

  It was a situation which might well have depressed the spirits ofmany a man. Mr. Pickwick, however, felt neither depression normisgiving. He knew that his purpose was in the main a good one,and he placed implicit reliance on the high-minded Job. it wasdull, certainly; not to say dreary; but a contemplative man canalways employ himself in meditation. Mr. Pickwick had meditatedhimself into a doze, when he was roused by the chimes of theneighbouring church ringing out the hour―half-past eleven.

  ‘That’s the time,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, getting cautiously onhis feet. He looked up at the house. The lights had disappeared,and the shutters were closed―all in bed, no doubt. He walked ontiptoe to the door, and gave a gentle tap. Two or three minutespassing without any reply, he gave another tap rather louder, andthen another rather louder than that.

  At length the sound of feet was audible upon the stairs, andthen the light of a candle shone through the keyhole of the door.

  There was a good deal of unchaining and unbolting, and the doorwas slowly opened.

  Now the door opened outwards; and as the door opened widerand wider, Mr. Pickwick receded behind it, more and more. Whatwas his astonishment when he just peeped out, by way of caution,to see that the person who had opened it was―not Job Trotter,but a servant-girl with a candle in her hand! Mr. Pickwick drew inhis head again, with the swiftness displayed by that admirablemelodramatic performer, Punch, when he lies in wait for the flat-headed comedian with the tin box of music.

  ‘It must have been the cat, Sarah,’ said the girl, addressingherself to some one in the house. ‘Puss, puss, puss,―tit, tit, tit.’

  But no animal being decoyed by these blandishments, the girlslowly closed the door, and re-fastened it; leaving Mr. Pickwickdrawn up straight against the wall.

  ‘This is very curious,’ thought Mr. Pickwick. ‘They are sittingup beyond their usual hour, I suppose. Extremely unfortunate,that they should have chosen this night, of all others, for such apurpose―exceedingly.’ And with these thoughts, Mr. Pickwickcautiously retired to the angle of the wall in which he had beenbefore ensconced; waiting until such time as he might deem it safeto repeat the signal.

  He had not been here five minutes, when a vivid flash oflightning was followed by a loud peal of thunder that crashed androlled away in the distance with a terrific noise―then cameanother flash of lightning, brighter than the other, and a secondpeal of thunder louder than the first; and then down came therain, with a force and fury that swept everything before it.

  Mr. Pickwick was perfectly aware that a tree is a verydangerous neighbour in a thunderstorm. He had a tree on hisright, a tree on his left, a third before him, and a fourth behind. Ifhe remained where he was, he might fall the victim of an accident;if he showed himself in the centre of the garden, he might beconsigned to a constable. Once or twice he tried to scale the wall,but having no other legs this time, than those with which Naturehad furnished him, the only effect of his struggles was to inflict avariety of very unpleasant gratings on his knees and shins, and tothrow him into a state of the most profuse perspiration.

  ‘ What a dreadful situation,’ said Mr. Pickwick, pausing to wipehis brow after this exercise. He looked up at the house―all wasdark. They must be gone to bed now. He would try the signalagain.

  He walked on tiptoe across the moist gravel, and tapped at thedoor. He held his breath, and listened at the key-hole. No reply:

  very odd. Another knock. He listened again. There was a lowwhispering inside, and then a voice cried―‘Who’s there?’

  ‘That’s not Job,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, hastily drawing himselfstraight up against the wall again. ‘It’s a woman.’

  He had scarcely had time to form this conclusion, when awindow above stairs was thrown up, and three or four femalevoices repeated the query―‘Who’s there?’

  Mr. Pickwick dared not move hand or foot. It was clear that thewhole establishment was roused. He made up his mind to remainwhere he was, until the alarm had subsided; and then by asupernatural effort, to get over the wall, or perish in the attempt.

  Like all Mr. Pickwick’s determinations, this was the best thatcould be made under the circumstances; but, unfortunately, it wasfounded upon the assumption that they would not venture to openthe door again. What was his discomfiture, when he heard thechain and bolts withdrawn, and saw the door slowly opening,wider and wider! He retreated into the corner, step by step; but dowhat he would, the interposition of his own person, prevented itsbeing opened to its utmost width.

  ‘Who’s there?’ screamed a numerous chorus of treble voicesfrom the staircase inside, consisting of the spinster lady of theestablishment, three teachers, five female servants, and thirtyboarders, all half-dressed and in a forest of curl-papers.

  Of course Mr. Pickwick didn’t say who was there: and then theburden of the chorus changed into―‘Lor! I am so frightened.’

  ‘Cook,’ said the lady abbess, who took care to be on the topstair, the very last of the group―‘cook, why don’t you go a littleway into the garden?’

  ‘Please, ma’am, I don’t like,’ responded the cook.

  ‘Lor, what a stupid thing that cook is!’ said the thirty boarders.

  ‘Cook,’ said the lady abbess, with great dignity; ‘don’t answerme, if you please. I insist upon your looking into the gardenimmediately.’

  Here the cook began to cry, and the housemaid said it was ‘ashame!’ for which partisanship she received a month’s warning onthe spot.

  ‘Do you hear, cook?’ said the lady abbess, stamping her footimpatiently.

  ‘Don’t you hear your missis, cook?’ said the three teachers.

  ‘What an impudent thing that cook is!’ said the thirty boarders.

  The unfortunate cook, thus strongly urged, advanced a step ortwo, and holding her candle just where it prevented her fromseeing at all, declared there was nothing there, and it must havebeen the wind. The door was just going to be closed inconsequence, when an inquisitive boarder, who had been peepingbetween the hinges, set up a fearful screaming, which called backthe cook and housemaid, and all the more adventurous, in no time.

  ‘What is the matter with Miss Smithers?’ said the lady abbess,as the aforesaid Miss Smithers proceeded to go into hysterics offour young lady power.

  ‘Lor, Miss Smithers, dear,’ said the other nine-and-twentyboarders.

  ‘Oh, the man―the man―behind the door!’ screamed MissSmithers.

  The lady abbess no sooner heard this appalling cry, than sheretreated to her own bedroom, double-locked the door, and faintedaway comfortably. The boarders, and the teachers, and theservants, fell back upon the stairs, and upon each other; and neverwas such a screaming, and fainting, and struggling beheld. In themidst of the tumult, Mr. Pickwick emerged from his concealment,and presented himself amongst them.

  ‘Ladies―dear ladies,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Oh. he says we’re dear,’ cried the oldest and ugliest teacher.

  ‘Oh, the wretch!’

  ‘Ladies,’ roared Mr. Pickwick, rendered desperate by thedanger of his situation. ‘Hear me. I am no robber. I want the lady of the house.’

  ‘Oh, what a ferocious monster!’ screamed another teacher. ‘Hewants Miss Tomkins.’

  Here there was a general scream.

  ‘Ring the alarm bell, somebody!’ cried a dozen voices.

  ‘Don’t―don’t,’ shouted Mr. Pickwick. ‘Look at me. Do I looklike a robber! My dear ladies―you may bind me hand and leg, orlock me up in a closet, if you like. Only hear what I have got tosay―only hear me.’

  ‘How did you come in our garden?’ faltered the housemaid.

  ‘Call the lady of the house, and I’ll tell her everything,’ said Mr.

  Pickwick, exerting his lungs to the utmost pitch. ‘Call her―only bequiet, and call her, and you shall hear everything .’

  It might have been Mr. Pickwick’s appearance, or it might havebeen his manner, or it might have been the temptation―irresistible to a female mind―of hearing something at presentenveloped in mystery, that reduced the more reasonable portion ofthe establishment (some four individuals) to a state of comparativequiet. By them it was proposed, as a test of Mr. Pickwick’ssincerity, that he should immediately submit to personal restraint;and that gentleman having consented to hold a conference withMiss Tomkins, from the interior of a closet in which the dayboarders hung their bonnets and sandwich-bags, he at oncestepped into it, of his own accord, and was securely locked in. Thisrevived the others; and Miss Tomkins having been brought to, andbrought down, the conference began.

  ‘What did you do in my garden, man?’ said Miss Tomkins, in afaint voice.

  ‘I came to warn you that one of your young ladies was going toelope to-night,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, from the interior of thecloset.

  ‘Elope!’ exclaimed Miss Tomkins, the three teachers, the thirtyboarders, and the five servants. ‘Who with?’

  ‘Your friend, Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall.’

  ‘My friend! I don’t know any such person.’

  ‘Well, Mr. Jingle, then.’

  ‘I never heard the name in my life.’

  ‘Then, I have been deceived, and deluded,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Ihave been the victim of a conspiracy―a foul and base conspiracy.

  Send to the Angel, my dear ma’am, if you don’t believe me. Sendto the Angel for Mr. Pickwick’s manservant, I implore you,ma’am.’

  ‘He must be respectable―he keeps a manservant,’ said MissTomkins to the writing and ciphering governess.

  ‘It’s my opinion, Miss Tomkins,’ said the writing and cipheringgoverness, ‘that his manservant keeps him, I think he’s a madman,Miss Tomkins, and the other’s his keeper.’

  ‘I think you are very right, Miss Gwynn,’ responded MissTomkins. ‘Let two of the servants repair to the Angel, and let theothers remain here, to protect us.’

  So two of the servants were despatched to the Angel in searchof Mr. Samuel Weller; and the remaining three stopped behind toprotect Miss Tomkins, and the three teachers, and the thirtyboarders. And Mr. Pickwick sat down in the closet, beneath agrove of sandwich-bags, and awaited the return of the messengers,with all the philosophy and fortitude he could summon to his aid.

  An hour and a half elapsed before they came back, and whenthey did come, Mr. Pickwick recognised, in addition to the voice ofMr. Samuel Weller, two other voices, the tones of which struckfamiliarly on his ear; but whose they were, he could not for the lifeof him call to mind.

  A very brief conversation ensued. The door was unlocked. Mr.

  Pickwick stepped out of the closet, and found himself in thepresence of the whole establishment of Westgate House, MrSamuel Weller, and―old Wardle, and his destined son-in-law, Mr.

  Trundle!

  ‘My dear friend,’ said Mr. Pickwick, running forward andgrasping Wardle’s hand, ‘my dear friend, pray, for Heaven’s sake,explain to this lady the unfortunate and dreadful situation inwhich I am placed. You must have heard it from my servant; say,at all events, my dear fellow, that I am neither a robber nor amadman.’

  ‘I have said so, my dear friend. I have said so already,’ repliedMr. Wardle, shaking the right hand of his friend, while Mr.

  Trundle shook the left. ‘And whoever says, or has said, he is,’

  interposed Mr. Weller, stepping forward, ‘says that which is notthe truth, but so far from it, on the contrary, quite the rewerse.

  And if there’s any number o’ men on these here premises as hassaid so, I shall be wery happy to give ’em all a wery convincingproof o’ their being mistaken, in this here wery room, if these weryrespectable ladies ‘ll have the goodness to retire, and order ’em up,one at a time.’ Having delivered this defiance with great volubility,Mr. Weller struck his open palm emphatically with his clenchedfist, and winked pleasantly on Miss Tomkins, the intensity ofwhose horror at his supposing it within the bounds of possibilitythat there could be any men on the premises of Westgate HouseEstablishment for Young Ladies, it is impossible to describe.

  Mr. Pickwick’s explanation having already been partially made,was soon concluded. But neither in the course of his walk homewith his friends, nor afterwards when seated before a blazing fireat the supper he so much needed, could a single observation bedrawn from him. He seemed bewildered and amazed. Once, andonly once, he turned round to Mr. Wardle, and said―‘How did you come here?’

  ‘Trundle and I came down here, for some good shooting on thefirst,’ replied Wardle. ‘We arrived to-night, and were astonished tohear from your servant that you were here too. But I am glad youare,’ said the old fellow, slapping him on the back―‘I am glad youare. We shall have a jovial party on the first, and we’ll give Winkleanother chance―eh, old boy?’

  Mr. Pickwick made no reply, he did not even ask after hisfriends at Dingley Dell, and shortly afterwards retired for thenight, desiring Sam to fetch his candle when he rung. The bell didring in due course, and Mr. Weller presented himself.

  ‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking out from under the bed-clothes.

  ‘Sir,’ said Mr. Weller.

  Mr. Pickwick paused, and Mr. Weller snuffed the candle.

  ‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick again, as if with a desperate effort.

  ‘Sir,’ said Mr. Weller, once more.

  ‘Where is that Trotter?’

  ‘Job, sir?’

  ‘Yes.

  ‘Gone, sir.’

  ‘With his master, I suppose?’

  ‘Friend or master, or whatever he is, he’s gone with him,’

  replied Mr. Weller. ‘There’s a pair on ’em, sir.’

  ‘Jingle suspected my design, and set that fellow on you, withthis story, I suppose?’ said Mr. Pickwick, half choking.

  ‘Just that, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

  ‘It was all false, of course?’

  ‘All, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Reg’lar do, sir; artful dodge.’

  ‘I don’t think he’ll escape us quite so easily the next time, Sam!’

  said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘I don’t think he will, sir.’

  ‘Whenever I meet that Jingle again, wherever it is,’ said Mr.

  Pickwick, raising himself in bed, and indenting his pillow with atremendous blow, ‘I’ll inflict personal chastisement on him, inaddition to the exposure he so richly merits. I will, or my name isnot Pickwick.’

  ‘And venever I catches hold o’ that there melan-cholly chapwith the black hair,’ said Sam, ‘if I don’t bring some real water intohis eyes, for once in a way, my name ain’t Weller. Good-night, sir!’



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533