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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 16

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 16


There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more
beautiful appearance than in the month of August. Spring has many
beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month, but the charms
of this time of year are enhanced by their contrast with the
winter season. August has no such advantage. It comes when we
remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling
flowers--when the recollection of snow, and ice, and bleak winds,
has faded from our minds as completely as they have disappeared
from the earth--and yet what a pleasant time it is! Orchards and
cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the
thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the
ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in
every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the
sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue. A mellow softness
appears to hang over the whole earth; the influence of the season
seems to extend itself to the very wagon, whose slow motion across
the well-reaped field is perceptible only to the eye, but strikes
with no harsh sound upon the ear.

As the coach rolls swiftly past the fields and orchards which
skirt the road, groups of women and children, piling the fruit in
sieves, or gathering the scattered ears of corn, pause for an
instant from their labour, and shading the sun-burned face with
a still browner hand, gaze upon the passengers with curious eyes,
while some stout urchin, too small to work, but too mischievous
to be left at home, scrambles over the side of the basket in which
he has been deposited for security, and kicks and screams with
delight. The reaper stops in his work, and stands with folded
arms, looking at the vehicle as it whirls past; and the rough cart-
horses bestow a sleepy glance upon the smart coach team, which
says as plainly as a 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 a dusty road, after all.' You cast a look behind
you, as you turn a corner of the road. The women and children
have resumed their labour; the reaper once more stoops to his
work; the cart-horses have moved on; and all are again in motion.
The influence of a scene like this, was not lost upon the well-
regulated mind of Mr. Pickwick. Intent upon the resolution he
had formed, of exposing the real character of the nefarious
Jingle, in any quarter in which he might be pursuing his fraudulent
designs, he sat at first taciturn and contemplative, brooding
over the means by which his purpose could be best attained. By
degrees his attention grew more and more attracted by the
objects around him; and at last he derived as much enjoyment
from the ride, as if it had been undertaken for the pleasantest
reason in the world.

'Delightful prospect, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Beats the chimbley-pots, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, touching
his hat.

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

'I worn't always a boots, sir,' said Mr. Weller, with a shake of
the head. 'I wos a vaginer's boy, once.'

'When was that?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'When I wos first pitched neck and crop into the world, to play
at leap-frog with its troubles,' replied Sam. 'I wos a carrier's boy
at startin'; then a vaginer's, then a helper, then a boots. Now I'm
a gen'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
the back-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. 'My
father's wery much in that line now. If my mother-in-law blows
him up, he whistles. She flies in a passion, and breaks his pipe;
he steps out, and gets another. Then she screams wery loud, and
falls into 'sterics; and he smokes wery comfortably till she comes
to agin. 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, in
the course of your rambling life, Sam.'

'Service, sir,' exclaimed Sam. 'You may say that. Arter I run
away from the carrier, and afore I took up with the vaginer, I had
unfurnished 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 is
any objection to it, it is that the sitivation's rayther too airy. I see
some queer sights there.'
'Ah, I suppose you did,' said Mr. Pickwick, with an air of
considerable interest.

'Sights, sir,' resumed Mr. Weller, 'as 'ud penetrate your
benevolent heart, and come out on the other side. You don't see
the reg'lar wagrants there; trust 'em, they knows better than that.
Young beggars, male and female, as hasn't made a rise in their
profession, takes up their quarters there sometimes; but it's
generally the worn-out, starving, houseless creeturs as roll
themselves in the dark corners o' them lonesome places--poor
creeturs 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 cheap
lodgin' 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. 'Ven the
lady and gen'l'm'n as keeps the hot-el first begun business, they
used to make the beds on the floor; but this wouldn't do at no
price, 'cos instead o' taking a moderate twopenn'orth o' sleep,
the lodgers used to lie there half the day. So now they has two
ropes, 'bout six foot apart, and three from the floor, which goes
right down 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,
and down falls the lodgers. Consequence is, that being thoroughly
waked, 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 handsome
little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped
before a large inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the
old abbey.

'And this,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking up. 'Is the Angel! We
alight here, Sam. But some caution is necessary. Order a private
room, and do not mention my name. You understand.'

'Right as a trivet, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, with a wink of
intelligence; and having dragged Mr. Pickwick's portmanteau
from the hind boot, into which it had been hastily thrown when
they joined the coach at Eatanswill, Mr. Weller disappeared on
his errand. 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
'Order dinner, Sir,' interposed Mr. Weller. 'It's wery late, sir."

'Ah, so it is,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at his watch. 'You are
right, Sam.'

'And if I might adwise, Sir,' added Mr. Weller, 'I'd just have a
good night's rest arterwards, and not begin inquiring arter this
here deep 'un till the mornin'. There's nothin' so refreshen' as
sleep, sir, as the servant girl said afore she drank the egg-cupful
of laudanum.'

'I think you are right, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'But I must
first ascertain 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
little dinner, and make my inquiries below while it's a-getting
ready; I could 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 satisfactory
dinner; and in three-quarters Mr. Weller returned with the
intelligence that Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall had ordered his
private room to be retained for him, until further notice. He was
going to spend the evening at some private house in the neighbourhood,
had ordered the boots to sit up until his return, and
had taken his servant with him.

'Now, sir,' argued Mr. Weller, when he had concluded his
report, '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 can
act accordingly.'

As it appeared that this was the best arrangement that could
be made, it was finally agreed upon. Mr. Weller, by his master's
permission, retired to spend the evening in his own way; and was
shortly afterwards elected, by the unanimous voice of the
assembled company, into the taproom chair, in which honourable
post he acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of the
gentlemen-frequenters, that their roars of laughter and approbation
penetrated to Mr. Pickwick's bedroom, and shortened the
term of his natural rest by at least three hours.

Early on the ensuing morning, Mr. Weller was dispelling all
the feverish remains of the previous evening's conviviality,
through the instrumentality of a halfpenny shower-bath (having
induced a young gentleman attached to the stable department, by
the offer of that coin, to pump over his head and face, until he
was perfectly restored), when he was attracted by the appearance
of a young fellow in mulberry-coloured livery, who was sitting on
a bench in the yard, reading what appeared to be a hymn-book,
with an air of deep abstraction, but who occasionally stole a
glance at the individual under the pump, as if he took some
interest in his proceedings, nevertheless.

'You're a rum 'un to look at, you are!' thought Mr. Weller, the
first time his eyes encountered the glance of the stranger in the
mulberry suit, who had a large, sallow, ugly face, very sunken
eyes, and a gigantic head, from which depended a quantity of
lank black hair. 'You're a rum 'un!' thought Mr. Weller; and
thinking this, he went on washing himself, and thought no more
about him.

Still the man kept glancing from his hymn-book to Sam, and
from Sam to his hymn-book, as if he wanted to open a conversation.
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,
speaking with great deliberation, and closing the book. 'I hope
you are the same, Sir?'

'Why, if I felt less like a walking brandy-bottle I shouldn't be
quite so staggery this mornin',' replied Sam. 'Are you stoppin' in
this 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 red
with 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
to know you. I like your appearance, old fellow.'

'Well, that is very strange,' said the mulberry man, with great
simplicity of manner. 'I like yours so much, that I wanted to
speak to 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
upon the softness of the stranger. 'What's your name, my patriarch?'


'And a wery good name it is; only one I know that ain't got a
nickname 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
take a drop o' somethin' this mornin', Mr. Trotter?'

Mr. Trotter acquiesced in this agreeable proposal; and having
deposited his book in his coat pocket, accompanied Mr. Weller
to the tap, where they were soon occupied in discussing an
exhilarating compound, formed by mixing together, in a pewter
vessel, certain quantities of British Hollands and the fragrant
essence of the clove.

'And what sort of a place have you got?' inquired Sam, as he
filled 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 be married.'


'Yes; and worse than that, too, he's going to run away with an
immense rich heiress, from boarding-school.'

'What a dragon!' said Sam, refilling his companion's glass.
'It's some boarding-school in this town, I suppose, ain't it?'
Now, although this question was put in the most careless tone
imaginable, Mr. Job Trotter plainly showed by gestures that he
perceived 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 finally
made a motion with his arm, as if he were working an imaginary
pump-handle; thereby intimating that he (Mr. Trotter) considered
himself as undergoing the process of being pumped by Mr.
Samuel Weller.

'No, no,' said Mr. Trotter, in conclusion, 'that's not to be told
to everybody. That is a secret--a great secret, Mr. Walker.'
As the mulberry man said this, he turned his glass upside
down, by way of reminding his companion that he had nothing
left wherewith to slake his thirst. Sam observed the hint; and
feeling the delicate manner in which it was conveyed, ordered the
pewter vessel to be refilled, 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,
sipping his 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, gave
four distinct slaps on the pockets of his mulberry indescribables
with his right, as if to intimate that his master might have done
the same 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 a precious rascal?'

'I know that,' said Job Trotter, turning upon his companion a
countenance of deep contrition, and groaning slightly, 'I know
that, and that's what it is that preys upon my mind. But what am
I to do?'

'Do!' said Sam; 'di-wulge to the missis, and give up your master.'

'Who'd believe me?' replied Job Trotter. 'The young lady's
considered the very picture of innocence and discretion. She'd
deny it, and so would my master. Who'd believe me? I should lose
my 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's
somethin' in that.'

'If I knew any respectable gentleman who would take the
matter up,' continued Mr. Trotter. 'I might have some hope of
preventing 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 grasping
the mulberry man by the arm. 'My mas'r's the man you want, I
see.' And after a slight resistance on the part of Job Trotter, Sam
led his newly-found friend to the apartment of Mr. Pickwick, to
whom he presented him, together with a brief summary of the
dialogue 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
six inches 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.
'We should all try to discharge our duty, Sir, and I humbly
endeavour to 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 he is 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's tears with considerable impatience, 'blow this 'ere
water-cart bis'ness. It won't do no good, this won't.'

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick reproachfully. 'I am sorry to find
that you have so little respect for this young man's feelings.'

'His feelin's is all wery well, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'and as
they're so wery fine, and it's a pity he should lose 'em, I think
he'd better keep 'em in his own buzzum, than let 'em ewaporate
in hot water, 'specially as they do no good. Tears never yet
wound up a clock, or worked a steam ingin'. The next time you
go out to a smoking party, young fellow, fill your pipe with that
'ere reflection; and for the present just put that bit of pink
gingham into your pocket. 'Tain't so handsome that you need
keep waving it about, as if 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
no longer.'
'Very well,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Now, where is this

'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 design
to be carried into execution--when is this elopement to
take place?'

'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 see
the lady who keeps the establishment immediately.'

'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Job, 'but that course of proceeding
will 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, if
you went down on your bare knees, and swore it; especially as
you have no proof but the word of a servant, who, for anything
she knows (and my master would be sure to say so), was discharged
for 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
convince the 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 a
very 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 the
confidence of the two servants, will be secreted in the kitchen at
ten o'clock. When the family have retired to rest, we shall come
out 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
the garden behind, alone--'

'Alone,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why alone?'

'I thought it very natural,' replied Job, 'that the old lady
wouldn't like such an unpleasant discovery to be made before
more persons than can possibly be helped. The young lady, too,
sir--consider her feelings.'

'You are very right,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'The consideration
evinces your delicacy of feeling. Go on; you are very right.'

'Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were waiting in the
back garden alone, and I was to let you in, at the door which
opens into it, from the end of the passage, at exactly half-past
eleven o'clock, you would be just in the very moment of time to
assist me in frustrating the designs of this bad man, by whom I
have been unfortunately ensnared.' Here Mr. Trotter sighed deeply.

'Don't distress yourself on that account,' said Mr. Pickwick;
'if he 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 previous
remonstrance, the tears again rose to his eyes.

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

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, with great severity, 'hold
your tongue.'

'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,' responded
Job Trotter.

'That's a clincher,' said Mr. Weller, aside.

'Then this garden,' resumed Mr. Pickwick. 'How am I to get
into it?'

'The wall is very low, sir, and your servant will give you a
leg up.'
'My servant will give me a leg up,' repeated Mr. Pickwick
mechanically. 'You will be sure to be near this door that you
speak of?'

'You cannot mistake it, Sir; it's the only one that opens into
the garden. Tap at it when you hear the clock strike, and I will
open it instantly.'

'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, I adopt 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 most
willingly 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
get to the end of the town; it stands by itself, some little distance
off the high road, with the name on a brass plate on the gate.'

'I know it,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I observed it once before, when
I was 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 your
goodness 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
cry like a rain-water spout in a shower on such good terms.
How do you 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 which
passed through Mr. Trotter's mind, because we don't know what
they were.

The day wore on, evening came, and at a little before ten
o'clock Sam Weller reported that Mr. Jingle and Job had gone
out together, that their luggage was packed up, and that they had
ordered 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. Pickwick
to issue forth on his delicate errand. Resisting Sam's tender of his
greatcoat, in order that he might have no encumbrance in scaling
the wall, he set forth, followed by his attendant.

There was a bright moon, but it was behind the clouds. it was
a fine dry night, but it was most uncommonly dark. Paths,
hedges, fields, houses, and trees, were enveloped in one deep
shade. The atmosphere was hot and sultry, the summer lightning
quivered faintly on the verge of the horizon, and was the only
sight that varied the dull gloom in which everything was wrapped
--sound there was none, except the distant barking of some
restless house-dog.

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

'You will return to the inn, Sam, when you have assisted me
over,' 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 the
top of the wall, and gave the word 'Over,' which was literally
obeyed. Whether his body partook in some degree of the elasticity
of his mind, or whether Mr. Weller's notions of a gentle push
were of a somewhat rougher description than Mr. Pickwick's, the
immediate effect of his assistance was to jerk that immortal
gentleman completely over the wall on to the bed beneath,
where, after crushing three gooseberry-bushes and a rose-tree, he
finally alighted at full length.

'You ha'n't hurt yourself, I hope, Sir?' said Sam, in a loud
whisper, as soon as he had recovered from the surprise consequent
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 have
hurt me.'

'I hope not, Sir,' said Sam.

'Never mind,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising, 'it's nothing but a few
scratches. Go away, or we shall be overheard.'

'Good-bye, Sir.'


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

Lights occasionally appeared in the different windows of the
house, or glanced from the staircases, as if the inmates were
retiring to rest. Not caring to go too near the door, until the
appointed 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
of many a man. Mr. Pickwick, however, felt neither depression
nor misgiving. He knew that his purpose was in the main a good
one, and he placed implicit reliance on the high-minded Job. it
was dull, certainly; not to say dreary; but a contemplative man
can always employ himself in meditation. Mr. Pickwick had
meditated himself into a doze, when he was roused by the chimes
of the neighbouring church ringing out the hour--half-past eleven.

'That's the time,' thought Mr. Pickwick, getting cautiously on
his feet. He looked up at the house. The lights had disappeared,
and the shutters were closed--all in bed, no doubt. He walked
on tiptoe to the door, and gave a gentle tap. Two or three
minutes passing without any reply, he gave another tap rather
louder, and then another rather louder than that.

At length the sound of feet was audible upon the stairs, and
then the light of a candle shone through the keyhole of the door.
There was a good deal of unchaining and unbolting, and the door
was slowly opened.

Now the door opened outwards; and as the door opened wider
and wider, Mr. Pickwick receded behind it, more and more. What
was 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
in his head again, with the swiftness displayed by that admirable
melodramatic 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, addressing
herself to some one in the house. 'Puss, puss, puss,--tit, tit, tit.'

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

'This is very curious,' thought Mr. Pickwick. 'They are sitting
up beyond their usual hour, I suppose. Extremely unfortunate,
that they should have chosen this night, of all others, for such a
purpose--exceedingly.' And with these thoughts, Mr. Pickwick
cautiously retired to the angle of the wall in which he had been
before ensconced; waiting until such time as he might deem it
safe to repeat the signal.

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

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

'What a dreadful situation,' said Mr. Pickwick, pausing to
wipe his brow after this exercise. He looked up at the house--all
was dark. They must be gone to bed now. He would try the
signal again.

He walked on tiptoe across the moist gravel, and tapped at the
door. He held his breath, and listened at the key-hole. No reply:
very odd. Another knock. He listened again. There was a low
whispering inside, and then a voice cried--

'Who's there?'

'That's not Job,' thought Mr. Pickwick, hastily drawing himself
straight up against the wall again. 'It's a woman.'

He had scarcely had time to form this conclusion, when a
window above stairs was thrown up, and three or four female
voices repeated the query--'Who's there?'

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

Like all Mr. Pickwick's determinations, this was the best that
could be made under the circumstances; but, unfortunately, it
was founded upon the assumption that they would not venture
to open the door again. What was his discomfiture, when he
heard the chain and bolts withdrawn, and saw the door slowly
opening, wider and wider! He retreated into the corner, step by
step; but do what he would, the interposition of his own person,
prevented its being opened to its utmost width.

'Who's there?' screamed a numerous chorus of treble voices
from the staircase inside, consisting of the spinster lady of the
establishment, three teachers, five female servants, and thirty
boarders, all half-dressed and in a forest of curl-papers.

Of course Mr. Pickwick didn't say who was there: and then the
burden of the chorus changed into--'Lor! I am so frightened.'

'Cook,' said the lady abbess, who took care to be on the top
stair, the very last of the group--'cook, why don't you go a little
way 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
answer me, if you please. I insist upon your looking into the
garden immediately.'

Here the cook began to cry, and the housemaid said it was 'a
shame!' for which partisanship she received a month's warning
on the spot.

'Do you hear, cook?' said the lady abbess, stamping her
foot impatiently.

'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 or
two, and holding her candle just where it prevented her from
seeing at all, declared there was nothing there, and it must have
been the wind. The door was just going to be closed in consequence,
when an inquisitive boarder, who had been peeping
between the hinges, set up a fearful screaming, which called back
the 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 of
four young lady power.

'Lor, Miss Smithers, dear,' said the other nine-and-twenty

'Oh, the man--the man--behind the door!' screamed Miss Smithers.

The lady abbess no sooner heard this appalling cry, than she
retreated to her own bedroom, double-locked the door, and
fainted away comfortably. The boarders, and the teachers, and
the servants, fell back upon the stairs, and upon each other; and
never was such a screaming, and fainting, and struggling beheld.
In the midst 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 the
danger of his situation. 'Hear me. I am no robber. I want the lady
of the house.'

'Oh, what a ferocious monster!' screamed another teacher.
'He wants 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 look
like a robber! My dear ladies--you may bind me hand and leg,
or lock me up in a closet, if you like. Only hear what I have got
to say--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 be quiet, and call her, and you shall hear everything .'

It might have been Mr. Pickwick's appearance, or it might have
been his manner, or it might have been the temptation--
irresistible to a female mind--of hearing something at present
enveloped in mystery, that reduced the more reasonable portion
of the establishment (some four individuals) to a state of
comparative quiet. By them it was proposed, as a test of Mr.
Pickwick's sincerity, that he should immediately submit to personal
restraint; and that gentleman having consented to hold a
conference with Miss Tomkins, from the interior of a closet in
which the day boarders hung their bonnets and sandwich-bags,
he at once stepped into it, of his own accord, and was securely
locked in. This revived the others; and Miss Tomkins having
been brought to, and brought down, the conference began.

'What did you do in my garden, man?' said Miss Tomkins, in
a faint voice.

'I came to warn you that one of your young ladies was going to
elope to-night,' replied Mr. Pickwick, from the interior of the closet.

'Elope!' exclaimed Miss Tomkins, the three teachers, the
thirty boarders, 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.
'I have 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.
Send to the Angel for Mr. Pickwick's manservant, I implore
you, ma'am.'

'He must be respectable--he keeps a manservant,' said Miss
Tomkins to the writing and ciphering governess.

'It's my opinion, Miss Tomkins,' said the writing and ciphering
governess, '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 Miss
Tomkins. 'Let two of the servants repair to the Angel, and let the
others remain here, to protect us.'

So two of the servants were despatched to the Angel in search
of Mr. Samuel Weller; and the remaining three stopped behind
to protect Miss Tomkins, and the three teachers, and the thirty
boarders. And Mr. Pickwick sat down in the closet, beneath a
grove 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 when
they did come, Mr. Pickwick recognised, in addition to the voice
of Mr. Samuel Weller, two other voices, the tones of which
struck familiarly on his ear; but whose they were, he could not for
the life of him call to mind.

A very brief conversation ensued. The door was unlocked.
Mr. Pickwick stepped out of the closet, and found himself in the
presence of the whole establishment of Westgate House, Mr
Samuel Weller, and--old Wardle, and his destined son-in-law,
Mr. Trundle!

'My dear friend,' said Mr. Pickwick, running forward and
grasping Wardle's hand, 'my dear friend, pray, for Heaven's sake,
explain to this lady the unfortunate and dreadful situation in
which 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
a madman.'

'I have said so, my dear friend. I have said so already,' replied
Mr. 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 not the 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 has said so, I shall be
wery happy to give 'em all a wery convincing proof o' their being
mistaken, in this here wery room, if these wery respectable 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 clenched fist, and
winked pleasantly on Miss Tomkins, the intensity of whose
horror at his supposing it within the bounds of possibility that
there could be any men on the premises of Westgate House
Establishment 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 home
with his friends, nor afterwards when seated before a blazing
fire at the supper he so much needed, could a single observation
be drawn from him. He seemed bewildered and amazed. Once,
and only 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
the first,' replied Wardle. 'We arrived to-night, and were
astonished to hear from your servant that you were here too.
But I am glad you are,' said the old fellow, slapping him on
the back--'I am glad you are. We shall have a jovial party
on the first, and we'll give Winkle another chance--eh, old

Mr. Pickwick made no reply, he did not even ask after his
friends at Dingley Dell, and shortly afterwards retired for the
night, desiring Sam to fetch his candle when he rung.
The bell did ring 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?'


'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, with
this 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 a
tremendous blow, 'I'll inflict personal chastisement on him, in
addition to the exposure he so richly merits. I will, or my name
is not Pickwick.'

'And venever I catches hold o' that there melan-cholly chap
with the black hair,' said Sam, 'if I don't bring some real water
into his eyes, for once in a way, my name ain't Weller. Good-
night, Sir!'

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