The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 24

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 24


When Mr. Pickwick descended to the room in which he and Mr. Peter
Magnus had spent the preceding evening, he found that gentleman with
the major part of the contents of the two bags, the leathern hat-box,
and the brown-paper parcel, displaying to all possible advantage
on his person, while he himself was pacing up and down the room in
a state of the utmost excitement and agitation.

'Good-morning, Sir,' said Mr. Peter Magnus. 'What do you
think of this, Sir?'

'Very effective indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the
garments of Mr. Peter Magnus with a good-natured smile.

'Yes, I think it'll do,' said Mr. Magnus. 'Mr. Pickwick, Sir, I
have sent up my card.'

'Have you?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'And the waiter brought back word, that she would see me at
eleven--at eleven, Sir; it only wants a quarter now.'

'Very near the time,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Yes, it is rather near,' replied Mr. Magnus, 'rather too near to
be pleasant--eh! Mr. Pickwick, sir?'

'Confidence is a great thing in these cases,' observed Mr. Pickwick.

'I believe it is, Sir,' said Mr. Peter Magnus. 'I am very confident,
Sir. Really, Mr. Pickwick, I do not see why a man should
feel any fear in such a case as this, sir. What is it, Sir? There's
nothing to be ashamed of; it's a matter of mutual accommodation,
nothing more. Husband on one side, wife on the other. That's
my view of the matter, Mr. Pickwick.'

'It is a very philosophical one,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'But
breakfast is waiting, Mr. Magnus. Come.'

Down they sat to breakfast, but it was evident, notwithstanding
the boasting of Mr. Peter Magnus, that he laboured
under a very considerable degree of nervousness, of which loss of
appetite, a propensity to upset the tea-things, a spectral attempt
at drollery, and an irresistible inclination to look at the clock,
every other second, were among the principal symptoms.

'He-he-he,'tittered Mr. Magnus, affecting cheerfulness, and
gasping with agitation. 'It only wants two minutes, Mr. Pickwick.
Am I pale, Sir?'
'Not very,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

There was a brief pause.

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick; but have you ever done this
sort of thing in your time?' said Mr. Magnus.

'You mean proposing?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Never,' said Mr. Pickwick, with great energy, 'never.'

'You have no idea, then, how it's best to begin?' said Mr. Magnus.

'Why,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I may have formed some ideas
upon the subject, but, as I have never submitted them to the test
of experience, I should be sorry if you were induced to regulate
your proceedings by them.'

'I should feel very much obliged to you, for any advice, Sir,'
said Mr. Magnus, taking another look at the clock, the hand of
which was verging on the five minutes past.

'Well, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, with the profound solemnity
with which that great man could, when he pleased, render his
remarks so deeply impressive. 'I should commence, sir, with a
tribute to the lady's beauty and excellent qualities; from them,
Sir, I should diverge to my own unworthiness.'

'Very good,' said Mr. Magnus.

'Unworthiness for HER only, mind, sir,' resumed Mr. Pickwick;
'for to show that I was not wholly unworthy, sir, I should take a
brief review of my past life, and present condition. I should argue,
by analogy, that to anybody else, I must be a very desirable
object. I should then expatiate on the warmth of my love, and
the depth of my devotion. Perhaps I might then be tempted to
seize her hand.'

'Yes, I see,' said Mr. Magnus; 'that would be a very great point.'

'I should then, Sir,' continued Mr. Pickwick, growing warmer
as the subject presented itself in more glowing colours before
him--'I should then, Sir, come to the plain and simple question,
"Will you have me?" I think I am justified in assuming that
upon this, she would turn away her head.'

'You think that may be taken for granted?' said Mr. Magnus;
'because, if she did not do that at the right place, it would
be embarrassing.'

'I think she would,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Upon this, sir, I
should squeeze her hand, and I think--I think, Mr. Magnus--
that after I had done that, supposing there was no refusal, I
should gently draw away the handkerchief, which my slight
knowledge of human nature leads me to suppose the lady would
be applying to her eyes at the moment, and steal a respectful kiss.
I think I should kiss her, Mr. Magnus; and at this particular
point, I am decidedly of opinion that if the lady were going to
take me at all, she would murmur into my ears a bashful acceptance.'

Mr. Magnus started; gazed on Mr. Pickwick's intelligent face,
for a short time in silence; and then (the dial pointing to the ten
minutes past) shook him warmly by the hand, and rushed
desperately from the room.

Mr. Pickwick had taken a few strides to and fro; and the small
hand of the clock following the latter part of his example, had
arrived at the figure which indicates the half-hour, when the door
suddenly opened. He turned round to meet Mr. Peter Magnus,
and encountered, in his stead, the joyous face of Mr. Tupman,
the serene countenance of Mr. Winkle, and the intellectual
lineaments of Mr. Snodgrass. As Mr. Pickwick greeted them,
Mr. Peter Magnus tripped into the room.

'My friends, the gentleman I was speaking of--Mr. Magnus,'
said Mr. Pickwick.

'Your servant, gentlemen,' said Mr. Magnus, evidently in a
high state of excitement; 'Mr. Pickwick, allow me to speak to you
one moment, sir.'

As he said this, Mr. Magnus harnessed his forefinger to Mr.
Pickwick's buttonhole, and, drawing him to a window recess, said--

'Congratulate me, Mr. Pickwick; I followed your advice to the
very letter.'

'And it was all correct, was it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'It was, Sir. Could not possibly have been better,' replied Mr.
Magnus. 'Mr. Pickwick, she is mine.'

'I congratulate you, with all my heart,' replied Mr. Pickwick,
warmly shaking his new friend by the hand.

'You must see her. Sir,' said Mr. Magnus; 'this way, if you
please. Excuse us for one instant, gentlemen.' Hurrying on in
this way, Mr. Peter Magnus drew Mr. Pickwick from the room.
He paused at the next door in the passage, and tapped gently thereat.

'Come in,' said a female voice. And in they went.

'Miss Witherfield,' said Mr. Magnus, 'allow me to introduce
my very particular friend, Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick, I beg to
make you known to Miss Witherfield.'

The lady was at the upper end of the room. As Mr. Pickwick
bowed, he took his spectacles from his waistcoat pocket, and put
them on; a process which he had no sooner gone through, than,
uttering an exclamation of surprise, Mr. Pickwick retreated
several paces, and the lady, with a half-suppressed scream, hid
her face in her hands, and dropped into a chair; whereupon
Mr. Peter Magnus was stricken motionless on the spot, and gazed
from one to the other, with a countenance expressive of the
extremities of horror and surprise.
This certainly was, to all appearance, very unaccountable
behaviour; but the fact is, that Mr. Pickwick no sooner put on
his spectacles, than he at once recognised in the future Mrs.
Magnus the lady into whose room he had so unwarrantably
intruded on the previous night; and the spectacles had no sooner
crossed Mr. Pickwick's nose, than the lady at once identified the
countenance which she had seen surrounded by all the horrors of
a nightcap. So the lady screamed, and Mr. Pickwick started.

'Mr. Pickwick!' exclaimed Mr. Magnus, lost in astonishment,
'what is the meaning of this, Sir? What is the meaning of it, Sir?'
added Mr. Magnus, in a threatening, and a louder tone.

'Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, somewhat indignant at the very sudden
manner in which Mr. Peter Magnus had conjugated himself into
the imperative mood, 'I decline answering that question.'

'You decline it, Sir?' said Mr. Magnus.

'I do, Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'I object to say anything
which may compromise that lady, or awaken unpleasant recollections
in her breast, without her consent and permission.'

'Miss Witherfield,' said Mr. Peter Magnus, 'do you know this person?'

'Know him!' repeated the middle-aged lady, hesitating.

'Yes, know him, ma'am; I said know him,' replied Mr.
Magnus, with ferocity.

'I have seen him,' replied the middle-aged lady.

'Where?' inquired Mr. Magnus, 'where?'

'That,' said the middle-aged lady, rising from her seat, and
averting her head--'that I would not reveal for worlds.'

'I understand you, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and respect
your delicacy; it shall never be revealed by ME depend upon it.'

'Upon my word, ma'am,' said Mr. Magnus, 'considering the
situation in which I am placed with regard to yourself, you carry
this matter off with tolerable coolness--tolerable coolness, ma'am.'

'Cruel Mr. Magnus!' said the middle-aged lady; here she wept
very copiously indeed.

'Address your observations to me, sir,' interposed Mr. Pickwick;
'I alone am to blame, if anybody be.'

'Oh! you alone are to blame, are you, sir?' said Mr. Magnus;
'I--I--see through this, sir. You repent of your determination
now, do you?'

'My determination!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Your determination, Sir. Oh! don't stare at me, Sir,' said
Mr. Magnus; 'I recollect your words last night, Sir. You came
down here, sir, to expose the treachery and falsehood of an
individual on whose truth and honour you had placed implicit
reliance--eh?' Here Mr. Peter Magnus indulged in a prolonged
sneer; and taking off his green spectacles--which he probably
found superfluous in his fit of jealousy--rolled his little eyes
about, in a manner frightful to behold.

'Eh?' said Mr. Magnus; and then he repeated the sneer with
increased effect. 'But you shall answer it, Sir.'

'Answer what?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Never mind, sir,' replied Mr. Magnus, striding up and down
the room. 'Never mind.'

There must be something very comprehensive in this phrase of
'Never mind,' for we do not recollect to have ever witnessed a
quarrel in the street, at a theatre, public room, or elsewhere, in
which it has not been the standard reply to all belligerent inquiries.
'Do you call yourself a gentleman, sir?'--'Never mind, sir.' 'Did
I offer to say anything to the young woman, sir?'--'Never mind,
sir.' 'Do you want your head knocked up against that wall, sir?'
--'Never mind, sir.' It is observable, too, that there would appear
to be some hidden taunt in this universal 'Never mind,' which
rouses more indignation in the bosom of the individual addressed,
than the most lavish abuse could possibly awaken.

We do not mean to assert that the application of this brevity
to himself, struck exactly that indignation to Mr. Pickwick's
soul, which it would infallibly have roused in a vulgar breast.
We merely record the fact that Mr. Pickwick opened the room
door, and abruptly called out, 'Tupman, come here!'

Mr. Tupman immediately presented himself, with a look of
very considerable surprise.

'Tupman,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'a secret of some delicacy, in
which that lady is concerned, is the cause of a difference which
has just arisen between this gentleman and myself. When I assure
him, in your presence, that it has no relation to himself, and is
not in any way connected with his affairs, I need hardly beg you
to take notice that if he continue to dispute it, he expresses a
doubt of my veracity, which I shall consider extremely insulting.'
As Mr. Pickwick said this, he looked encyclopedias at Mr. Peter

Mr. Pickwick's upright and honourable bearing, coupled with
that force and energy of speech which so eminently distinguished
him, would have carried conviction to any reasonable mind; but,
unfortunately, at that particular moment, the mind of Mr. Peter
Magnus was in anything but reasonable order. Consequently,
instead of receiving Mr. Pickwick's explanation as he ought to
have done, he forthwith proceeded to work himself into a red-
hot, scorching, consuming passion, and to talk about what was
due to his own feelings, and all that sort of thing; adding force to
his declamation by striding to and fro, and pulling his hair--
amusements which he would vary occasionally, by shaking his
fist in Mr. Pickwick's philanthropic countenance.

Mr. Pickwick, in his turn, conscious of his own innocence and
rectitude, and irritated by having unfortunately involved the
middle-aged lady in such an unpleasant affair, was not so quietly
disposed as was his wont. The consequence was, that words ran
high, and voices higher; and at length Mr. Magnus told Mr.
Pickwick he should hear from him; to which Mr. Pickwick
replied, with laudable politeness, that the sooner he heard from
him the better; whereupon the middle-aged lady rushed in
terror from the room, out of which Mr. Tupman dragged Mr.
Pickwick, leaving Mr. Peter Magnus to himself and meditation.

If the middle-aged lady had mingled much with the busy world,
or had profited at all by the manners and customs of those who
make the laws and set the fashions, she would have known that
this sort of ferocity is the most harmless thing in nature; but as
she had lived for the most part in the country, and never read the
parliamentary debates, she was little versed in these particular
refinements of civilised life. Accordingly, when she had gained
her bedchamber, bolted herself in, and began to meditate on the
scene she had just witnessed, the most terrific pictures of slaughter
and destruction presented themselves to her imagination; among
which, a full-length portrait of Mr. Peter Magnus borne home
by four men, with the embellishment of a whole barrelful of
bullets in his left side, was among the very least. The more the
middle-aged lady meditated, the more terrified she became; and
at length she determined to repair to the house of the principal
magistrate of the town, and request him to secure the persons of
Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman without delay.

To this decision the middle-aged lady was impelled by a variety
of considerations, the chief of which was the incontestable proof
it would afford of her devotion to Mr. Peter Magnus, and her
anxiety for his safety. She was too well acquainted with his
jealous temperament to venture the slightest allusion to the real
cause of her agitation on beholding Mr. Pickwick; and she
trusted to her own influence and power of persuasion with the
little man, to quell his boisterous jealousy, supposing that Mr.
Pickwick were removed, and no fresh quarrel could arise. Filled
with these reflections, the middle-aged lady arrayed herself in her
bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the mayor's dwelling straightway.

Now George Nupkins, Esquire, the principal magistrate
aforesaid, was as grand a personage as the fastest walker would
find out, between sunrise and sunset, on the twenty-first of June,
which being, according to the almanacs, the longest day in the
whole year, would naturally afford him the longest period for his
search. On this particular morning, Mr. Nupkins was in a state
of the utmost excitement and irritation, for there had been a
rebellion in the town; all the day-scholars at the largest day-
school had conspired to break the windows of an obnoxious
apple-seller, and had hooted the beadle and pelted the
constabulary--an elderly gentleman in top-boots, who had been
called out to repress the tumult, and who had been a peace-
officer, man and boy, for half a century at least. And Mr. Nupkins
was sitting in his easy-chair, frowning with majesty, and boiling
with rage, when a lady was announced on pressing, private, and
particular business. Mr. Nupkins looked calmly terrible, and
commanded that the lady should be shown in; which command,
like all the mandates of emperors, and magistrates, and other
great potentates of the earth, was forthwith obeyed; and Miss
Witherfield, interestingly agitated, was ushered in accordingly.

'Muzzle!' said the magistrate.

Muzzle was an undersized footman, with a long body and
short legs.

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Place a chair, and leave the room.'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Now, ma'am, will you state your business?' said the magistrate.

'It is of a very painful kind, Sir,' said Miss Witherfield.

'Very likely, ma'am,' said the magistrate. 'Compose your
feelings, ma'am.' Here Mr. Nupkins looked benignant. 'And
then tell me what legal business brings you here, ma'am.' Here
the magistrate triumphed over the man; and he looked stern again.

'It is very distressing to me, Sir, to give this information,' said
Miss Witherfield, 'but I fear a duel is going to be fought here.'

'Here, ma'am?' said the magistrate. 'Where, ma'am?'

'In Ipswich.'
'In Ipswich, ma'am! A duel in Ipswich!' said the magistrate,
perfectly aghast at the notion. 'Impossible, ma'am; nothing of the
kind can be contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Bless
my soul, ma'am, are you aware of the activity of our local
magistracy? Do you happen to have heard, ma'am, that I
rushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May last, attended by
only sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of falling a
sacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude,
prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling and
the Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, ma'am? I don't think--
I do not think,' said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, 'that
any two men can have had the hardihood to plan such a breach
of the peace, in this town.'

'My information is, unfortunately, but too correct,' said the
middle-aged lady; 'I was present at the quarrel.'

'It's a most extraordinary thing,' said the astounded magistrate.

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly.'

'Yes, your Worship.'

Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily-
clad clerk, of middle age, entered the room.

'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate. 'Mr. Jinks.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Jinks.
'This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of an
intended duel in this town.'

Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled a
dependent's smile.

'What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate.

Mr. Jinks looked serious instantly.

'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, 'you're a fool.'

Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top of
his pen.

'You may see something very comical in this information, Sir--
but I can tell you this, Mr. Jinks, that you have very little to
laugh at,' said the magistrate.

The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware of
the fact of his having very little indeed to be merry about; and,
being ordered to take the lady's information, shambled to a seat,
and proceeded to write it down.

'This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand?' said the
magistrate, when the statement was finished.

'He is,' said the middle-aged lady.

'And the other rioter--what's his name, Mr. Jinks?'

'Tupman, Sir.'
'Tupman is the second?'


'The other principal, you say, has absconded, ma'am?'

'Yes,' replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough.

'Very well,' said the magistrate. 'These are two cut-throats from
London, who have come down here to destroy his Majesty's
population, thinking that at this distance from the capital, the
arm of the law is weak and paralysed. They shall be made an
example of. Draw up the warrants, Mr. Jinks. Muzzle!'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Is Grummer downstairs?'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Send him up.'
The obsequious Muzzle retired, and presently returned,
introducing the elderly gentleman in the top-boots, who was
chiefly remarkable for a bottle-nose, a hoarse voice, a snuff-
coloured surtout, and a wandering eye.

'Grummer,' said the magistrate.

'Your Wash-up.'

'Is the town quiet now?'

'Pretty well, your Wash-up,' replied Grummer. 'Pop'lar feeling
has in a measure subsided, consekens o' the boys having
dispersed to cricket.'

'Nothing but vigorous measures will do in these times,
Grummer,' said the magistrate, in a determined manner. 'if the
authority of the king's officers is set at naught, we must have the
riot act read. If the civil power cannot protect these windows,
Grummer, the military must protect the civil power, and the
windows too. I believe that is a maxim of the constitution,
Mr. Jinks?'
'Certainly, sir,' said Jinks.

'Very good,' said the magistrate, signing the warrants.
'Grummer, you will bring these persons before me, this afternoon.
You will find them at the Great White Horse. You recollect the
case of the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam, Grummer?'

Mr. Grummer intimated, by a retrospective shake of the head,
that he should never forget it--as indeed it was not likely he
would, so long as it continued to be cited daily.

'This is even more unconstitutional,' said the magistrate; 'this
is even a greater breach of the peace, and a grosser infringement
of his Majesty's prerogative. I believe duelling is one of his
Majesty's most undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks?'

'Expressly stipulated in Magna Charta, sir,' said Mr. Jinks.

'One of the brightest jewels in the British crown, wrung from
his Majesty by the barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks?' said the

'Just so, Sir,' replied Mr. Jinks.

'Very well,' said the magistrate, drawing himself up proudly,
'it shall not be violated in this portion of his dominions. Grummer,
procure assistance, and execute these warrants with as little
delay as possible. Muzzle!'

'Yes, your Worship.'

'Show the lady out.'

Miss Witherfield retired, deeply impressed with the magistrate's
learning and research; Mr. Nupkins retired to lunch;
Mr. Jinks retired within himself--that being the only retirement
he had, except the sofa-bedstead in the small parlour which was
occupied by his landlady's family in the daytime--and Mr.
Grummer retired, to wipe out, by his mode of discharging his
present commission, the insult which had been fastened upon
himself, and the other representative of his Majesty--the beadle
--in the course of the morning.

While these resolute and determined preparations for the
conservation of the king's peace were pending, Mr. Pickwick and
his friends, wholly unconscious of the mighty events in progress,
had sat quietly down to dinner; and very talkative and
companionable they all were. Mr. Pickwick was in the very act of
relating his adventure of the preceding night, to the great amusement
of his followers, Mr. Tupman especially, when the door
opened, and a somewhat forbidding countenance peeped into the
room. The eyes in the forbidding countenance looked very
earnestly at Mr. Pickwick, for several seconds, and were to all
appearance satisfied with their investigation; for the body to
which the forbidding countenance belonged, slowly brought
itself into the apartment, and presented the form of an elderly
individual in top-boots--not to keep the reader any longer
in suspense, in short, the eyes were the wandering eyes of
Mr. Grummer, and the body was the body of the same gentleman.

Mr. Grummer's mode of proceeding was professional, but
peculiar. His first act was to bolt the door on the inside; his
second, to polish his head and countenance very carefully with a
cotton handkerchief; his third, to place his hat, with the cotton
handkerchief in it, on the nearest chair; and his fourth, to
produce from the breast-pocket of his coat a short truncheon,
surmounted by a brazen crown, with which he beckoned to
Mr. Pickwick with a grave and ghost-like air.

Mr. Snodgrass was the first to break the astonished silence.
He looked steadily at Mr. Grummer for a brief space, and then
said emphatically, 'This is a private room, Sir. A private room.'

Mr. Grummer shook his head, and replied, 'No room's private
to his Majesty when the street door's once passed. That's law.
Some people maintains that an Englishman's house is his castle.
That's gammon.'

The Pickwickians gazed on each other with wondering eyes.

'Which is Mr. Tupman?' inquired Mr. Grummer. He had an
intuitive perception of Mr. Pickwick; he knew him at once.

'My name's Tupman,' said that gentleman.

'My name's Law,' said Mr. Grummer.

'What?' said Mr. Tupman.

'Law,' replied Mr. Grummer--'Law, civil power, and exekative;
them's my titles; here's my authority. Blank Tupman, blank
Pickwick--against the peace of our sufferin' lord the king--
stattit in the case made and purwided--and all regular. I apprehend
you Pickwick! Tupman--the aforesaid.'

'What do you mean by this insolence?' said Mr. Tupman,
starting up; 'leave the room!'

'Hollo,' said Mr. Grummer, retreating very expeditiously to
the door, and opening it an inch or two, 'Dubbley.'

'Well,' said a deep voice from the passage.

'Come for'ard, Dubbley.'

At the word of command, a dirty-faced man, something over
six feet high, and stout in proportion, squeezed himself through
the half-open door (making his face very red in the process), and
entered the room.

'Is the other specials outside, Dubbley?' inquired Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley, who was a man of few words, nodded assent.

'Order in the diwision under your charge, Dubbley,' said
Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley did as he was desired; and half a dozen men, each
with a short truncheon and a brass crown, flocked into the room.
Mr. Grummer pocketed his staff, and looked at Mr. Dubbley;
Mr. Dubbley pocketed his staff and looked at the division; the
division pocketed their staves and looked at Messrs. Tupman
and Pickwick.

Mr. Pickwick and his followers rose as one man.

'What is the meaning of this atrocious intrusion upon my
privacy?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Who dares apprehend me?' said Mr. Tupman.

'What do you want here, scoundrels?' said Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Winkle said nothing, but he fixed his eyes on Grummer,
and bestowed a look upon him, which, if he had had any feeling,
must have pierced his brain. As it was, however, it had no visible
effect on him whatever.

When the executive perceived that Mr. Pickwick and his
friends were disposed to resist the authority of the law, they very
significantly turned up their coat sleeves, as if knocking them
down in the first instance, and taking them up afterwards, were a
mere professional act which had only to be thought of to be done,
as a matter of course. This demonstration was not lost upon
Mr. Pickwick. He conferred a few moments with Mr. Tupman
apart, and then signified his readiness to proceed to the mayor's
residence, merely begging the parties then and there assembled,
to take notice, that it was his firm intention to resent this monstrous
invasion of his privileges as an Englishman, the instant he
was at liberty; whereat the parties then and there assembled
laughed very heartily, with the single exception of Mr. Grummer,
who seemed to consider that any slight cast upon the divine
right of magistrates was a species of blasphemy not to be tolerated.

But when Mr. Pickwick had signified his readiness to bow to
the laws of his country, and just when the waiters, and hostlers,
and chambermaids, and post-boys, who had anticipated a
delightful commotion from his threatened obstinacy, began to
turn away, disappointed and disgusted, a difficulty arose which
had not been foreseen. With every sentiment of veneration for the
constituted authorities, Mr. Pickwick resolutely protested against
making his appearance in the public streets, surrounded and
guarded by the officers of justice, like a common criminal.
Mr. Grummer, in the then disturbed state of public feeling (for
it was half-holiday, and the boys had not yet gone home), as
resolutely protested against walking on the opposite side of the
way, and taking Mr. Pickwick's parole that he would go straight
to the magistrate's; and both Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman as
strenuously objected to the expense of a post-coach, which was
the only respectable conveyance that could be obtained. The
dispute ran high, and the dilemma lasted long; and just as the
executive were on the point of overcoming Mr. Pickwick's
objection to walking to the magistrate's, by the trite expedient of
carrying him thither, it was recollected that there stood in the inn
yard, an old sedan-chair, which, having been originally built for
a gouty gentleman with funded property, would hold Mr. Pickwick
and Mr. Tupman, at least as conveniently as a modern post-
chaise. The chair was hired, and brought into the hall; Mr. Pickwick
and Mr. Tupman squeezed themselves inside, and pulled
down the blinds; a couple of chairmen were speedily found; and
the procession started in grand order. The specials surrounded
the body of the vehicle; Mr. Grummer and Mr. Dubbley marched
triumphantly in front; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle walked
arm-in-arm behind; and the unsoaped of Ipswich brought up
the rear.

The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a very
indistinct notion of the nature of the offence, could not but be
much edified and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strong
arm of the law, coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upon
two offenders from the metropolis itself; the mighty engine was
directed by their own magistrate, and worked by their own
officers; and both the criminals, by their united efforts, were
securely shut up, in the narrow compass of one sedan-chair.
Many were the expressions of approval and admiration which
greeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand;
loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidst
these united testimonials of public approbation, the procession
moved slowly and majestically along.

Mr. Weller, habited in his morning jacket, with the black calico
sleeves, was returning in a rather desponding state from an
unsuccessful survey of the mysterious house with the green gate,
when, raising his eyes, he beheld a crowd pouring down the
street, surrounding an object which had very much the appearance
of a sedan-chair. Willing to divert his thoughts from the
failure of his enterprise, he stepped aside to see the crowd pass;
and finding that they were cheering away, very much to their
own satisfaction, forthwith began (by way of raising his spirits)
to cheer too, with all his might and main.

Mr. Grummer passed, and Mr. Dubbley passed, and the sedan
passed, and the bodyguard of specials passed, and Sam was still
responding to the enthusiastic cheers of the mob, and waving his
hat about as if he were in the very last extreme of the wildest joy
(though, of course, he had not the faintest idea of the matter in
hand), when he was suddenly stopped by the unexpected appearance
of Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass.

'What's the row, gen'l'm'n?'cried Sam. 'Who have they got in
this here watch-box in mournin'?'

Both gentlemen replied together, but their words were lost in
the tumult.

'Who is it?' cried Sam again.

once more was a joint reply returned; and, though the words
were inaudible, Sam saw by the motion of the two pairs of lips
that they had uttered the magic word 'Pickwick.'

This was enough. In another minute Mr. Weller had made his
way through the crowd, stopped the chairmen, and confronted
the portly Grummer.

'Hollo, old gen'l'm'n!' said Sam. 'Who have you got in this
here conweyance?'

'Stand back,' said Mr. Grummer, whose dignity, like the
dignity of a great many other men, had been wondrously
augmented by a little popularity.

'Knock him down, if he don't,' said Mr. Dubbley.

'I'm wery much obliged to you, old gen'l'm'n,' replied Sam,
'for consulting my conwenience, and I'm still more obliged to the
other gen'l'm'n, who looks as if he'd just escaped from a giant's
carrywan, for his wery 'andsome suggestion; but I should prefer
your givin' me a answer to my question, if it's all the same to you.
--How are you, Sir?' This last observation was addressed with a
patronising air to Mr. Pickwick, who was peeping through the
front window.

Mr. Grummer, perfectly speechless with indignation, dragged
the truncheon with the brass crown from its particular pocket,
and flourished it before Sam's eyes.

'Ah,' said Sam, 'it's wery pretty, 'specially the crown, which is
uncommon like the real one.'

'Stand back!' said the outraged Mr. Grummer. By way of
adding force to the command, he thrust the brass emblem of
royalty into Sam's neckcloth with one hand, and seized Sam's
collar with the other--a compliment which Mr. Weller returned
by knocking him down out of hand, having previously with the
utmost consideration, knocked down a chairman for him to lie upon.

Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of
that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or
animated by this display of Mr. Weller's valour, is uncertain; but
certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall than he
made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next him;
whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in
order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very
loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off
his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately
surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to
him and Mr. Winkle to say, that they did not make the slightest
attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller; who, after a
most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and
taken prisoner. The procession then reformed; the chairmen
resumed their stations; and the march was re-commenced.

Mr. Pickwick's indignation during the whole of this proceeding
was beyond all bounds. He could just see Sam upsetting the
specials, and flying about in every direction; and that was all he
could see, for the sedan doors wouldn't open, and the blinds
wouldn't pull up. At length, with the assistance of Mr. Tupman,
he managed to push open the roof; and mounting on the seat,
and steadying himself as well as he could, by placing his hand on
that gentleman's shoulder, Mr. Pickwick proceeded to address
the multitude; to dwell upon the unjustifiable manner in which he
had been treated; and to call upon them to take notice that his
servant had been first assaulted. In this order they reached the
magistrate's house; the chairmen trotting, the prisoners following,
Mr. Pickwick oratorising, and the crowd shouting.

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.