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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 36

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 36


As Mr. Pickwick contemplated a stay of at least two months in
Bath, he deemed it advisable to take private lodgings for himself
and friends for that period; and as a favourable opportunity
offered for their securing, on moderate terms, the upper portion
of a house in the Royal Crescent, which was larger than they
required, Mr. and Mrs. Dowler offered to relieve them of a
bedroom and sitting-room. This proposition was at once
accepted, and in three days' time they were all located in their
new abode, when Mr. Pickwick began to drink the waters with the
utmost assiduity. Mr. Pickwick took them systematically. He
drank a quarter of a pint before breakfast, and then walked up a
hill; and another quarter of a pint after breakfast, and then
walked down a hill; and, after every fresh quarter of a pint,
Mr. Pickwick declared, in the most solemn and emphatic terms,
that he felt a great deal better; whereat his friends were very
much delighted, though they had not been previously aware that
there was anything the matter with him.

The Great Pump Room is a spacious saloon, ornamented with
Corinthian pillars, and a music-gallery, and a Tompion clock,
and a statue of Nash, and a golden inscription, to which all the
water-drinkers should attend, for it appeals to them in the cause
of a deserving charity. There is a large bar with a marble vase,
out of which the pumper gets the water; and there are a number
of yellow-looking tumblers, out of which the company get it;
and it is a most edifying and satisfactory sight to behold the
perseverance and gravity with which they swallow it. There are
baths near at hand, in which a part of the company wash themselves;
and a band plays afterwards, to congratulate the remainder
on their having done so. There is another pump room, into which
infirm ladies and gentlemen are wheeled, in such an astonishing
variety of chairs and chaises, that any adventurous individual
who goes in with the regular number of toes, is in imminent danger
of coming out without them; and there is a third, into which the quiet
people go, for it is less noisy than either. There is an immensity of
promenading, on crutches and off, with sticks and without, and a
great deal of conversation, and liveliness, and pleasantry.

Every morning, the regular water-drinkers, Mr. Pickwick
among the number, met each other in the pump room, took their
quarter of a pint, and walked constitutionally. At the afternoon's
promenade, Lord Mutanhed, and the Honourable Mr. Crushton,
the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph, Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, and
all the great people, and all the morning water-drinkers, met in
grand assemblage. After this, they walked out, or drove out, or
were pushed out in bath-chairs, and met one another again. After
this, the gentlemen went to the reading-rooms, and met divisions
of the mass. After this, they went home. If it were theatre-night,
perhaps they met at the theatre; if it were assembly-night, they
met at the rooms; and if it were neither, they met the next day.
A very pleasant routine, with perhaps a slight tinge of sameness.

Mr. Pickwick was sitting up by himself, after a day spent in
this manner, making entries in his journal, his friends having
retired to bed, when he was roused by a gentle tap at the room door.

'Beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mrs. Craddock, the landlady,
peeping in; 'but did you want anything more, sir?'

'Nothing more, ma'am,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'My young girl is gone to bed, Sir,' said Mrs. Craddock; 'and
Mr. Dowler is good enough to say that he'll sit up for Mrs.
Dowler, as the party isn't expected to be over till late; so I was
thinking that if you wanted nothing more, Mr. Pickwick, I
would go to bed.'

'By all means, ma'am,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Wish you good-night, Sir,' said Mrs. Craddock.

'Good-night, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick.

Mrs. Craddock closed the door, and Mr. Pickwick resumed his writing.

In half an hour's time the entries were concluded. Mr. Pickwick
carefully rubbed the last page on the blotting-paper, shut up the
book, wiped his pen on the bottom of the inside of his coat tail,
and opened the drawer of the inkstand to put it carefully away.
There were a couple of sheets of writing-paper, pretty closely
written over, in the inkstand drawer, and they were folded so,
that the title, which was in a good round hand, was fully disclosed
to him. Seeing from this, that it was no private document;
and as it seemed to relate to Bath, and was very short: Mr. Pick-
wick unfolded it, lighted his bedroom candle that it might burn
up well by the time he finished; and drawing his chair nearer the
fire, read as follows--


'Less than two hundred years ago, on one of the public baths
in this city, there appeared an inscription in honour of its mighty
founder, the renowned Prince Bladud. That inscription is now erased.

'For many hundred years before that time, there had been
handed down, from age to age, an old legend, that the illustrious
prince being afflicted with leprosy, on his return from reaping a
rich harvest of knowledge in Athens, shunned the court of his
royal father, and consorted moodily with husbandman and pigs.
Among the herd (so said the legend) was a pig of grave and
solemn countenance, with whom the prince had a fellow-feeling
--for he too was wise--a pig of thoughtful and reserved demeanour;
an animal superior to his fellows, whose grunt was
terrible, and whose bite was sharp. The young prince sighed
deeply as he looked upon the countenance of the majestic swine;
he thought of his royal father, and his eyes were bedewed with tears.

'This sagacious pig was fond of bathing in rich, moist mud.
Not in summer, as common pigs do now, to cool themselves,
and did even in those distant ages (which is a proof that the light
of civilisation had already begun to dawn, though feebly), but in
the cold, sharp days of winter. His coat was ever so sleek, and
his complexion so clear, that the prince resolved to essay the
purifying qualities of the same water that his friend resorted to.
He made the trial. Beneath that black mud, bubbled the hot
springs of Bath. He washed, and was cured. Hastening to his
father's court, he paid his best respects, and returning quickly
hither, founded this city and its famous baths.

'He sought the pig with all the ardour of their early friendship
--but, alas! the waters had been his death. He had imprudently
taken a bath at too high a temperature, and the natural philosopher
was no more! He was succeeded by Pliny, who also fell a
victim to his thirst for knowledge.

'This was the legend. Listen to the true one.

'A great many centuries since, there flourished, in great state,
the famous and renowned Lud Hudibras, king of Britain. He was
a mighty monarch. The earth shook when he walked--he was so
very stout. His people basked in the light of his countenance--it
was so red and glowing. He was, indeed, every inch a king. And
there were a good many inches of him, too, for although he was
not very tall, he was a remarkable size round, and the inches that
he wanted in height, he made up in circumference. If any
degenerate monarch of modern times could be in any way compared
with him, I should say the venerable King Cole would be
that illustrious potentate.

'This good king had a queen, who eighteen years before, had
had a son, who was called Bladud. He was sent to a preparatory
seminary in his father's dominions until he was ten years old, and
was then despatched, in charge of a trusty messenger, to a
finishing school at Athens; and as there was no extra charge for
remaining during the holidays, and no notice required previous
to the removal of a pupil, there he remained for eight long years,
at the expiration of which time, the king his father sent the lord
chamberlain over, to settle the bill, and to bring him home;
which, the lord chamberlain doing, was received with shouts, and
pensioned immediately.

'When King Lud saw the prince his son, and found he had
grown up such a fine young man, he perceived what a grand
thing it would be to have him married without delay, so that his
children might be the means of perpetuating the glorious race of
Lud, down to the very latest ages of the world. With this view,
he sent a special embassy, composed of great noblemen who had
nothing particular to do, and wanted lucrative employment, to a
neighbouring king, and demanded his fair daughter in marriage
for his son; stating at the same time that he was anxious to be on
the most affectionate terms with his brother and friend, but that
if they couldn't agree in arranging this marriage, he should be
under the unpleasant necessity of invading his kingdom and
putting his eyes out. To this, the other king (who was the weaker
of the two) replied that he was very much obliged to his friend
and brother for all his goodness and magnanimity, and that his
daughter was quite ready to be married, whenever Prince Bladud
liked to come and fetch her.

'This answer no sooner reached Britain, than the whole nation
was transported with joy. Nothing was heard, on all sides, but
the sounds of feasting and revelry--except the chinking of money
as it was paid in by the people to the collector of the royal
treasures, to defray the expenses of the happy ceremony. It was
upon this occasion that King Lud, seated on the top of his throne
in full council, rose, in the exuberance of his feelings, and commanded
the lord chief justice to order in the richest wines and
the court minstrels--an act of graciousness which has been,
through the ignorance of traditionary historians, attributed to
King Cole, in those celebrated lines in which his Majesty is
represented as

     Calling for his pipe, and calling for his pot,
     And calling for his fiddlers three.

Which is an obvious injustice to the memory of King Lud, and
a dishonest exaltation of the virtues of King Cole.

'But, in the midst of all this festivity and rejoicing, there was
one individual present, who tasted not when the sparkling wines
were poured forth, and who danced not, when the minstrels
played. This was no other than Prince Bladud himself, in honour
of whose happiness a whole people were, at that very moment,
straining alike their throats and purse-strings. The truth was,
that the prince, forgetting the undoubted right of the minister for
foreign affairs to fall in love on his behalf, had, contrary to every
precedent of policy and diplomacy, already fallen in love on his
own account, and privately contracted himself unto the fair
daughter of a noble Athenian.

'Here we have a striking example of one of the manifold
advantages of civilisation and refinement. If the prince had lived
in later days, he might at once have married the object of his
father's choice, and then set himself seriously to work, to relieve
himself of the burden which rested heavily upon him. He might have
endeavoured to break her heart by a systematic course of insult and
neglect; or, if the spirit of her sex, and a proud consciousness
of her many wrongs had upheld her under this ill-treatment, he
might have sought to take her life, and so get rid of her effectually.
But neither mode of relief suggested itself to Prince Bladud; so he
solicited a private audience, and told his father.

'it is an old prerogative of kings to govern everything but their
passions. King Lud flew into a frightful rage, tossed his crown up
to the ceiling, and caught it again--for in those days kings kept
their crowns on their heads, and not in the Tower--stamped the
ground, rapped his forehead, wondered why his own flesh and
blood rebelled against him, and, finally, calling in his guards,
ordered the prince away to instant Confinement in a lofty turret;
a course of treatment which the kings of old very generally
pursued towards their sons, when their matrimonial inclinations
did not happen to point to the same quarter as their own.

'When Prince Bladud had been shut up in the lofty turret for
the greater part of a year, with no better prospect before his
bodily eyes than a stone wall, or before his mental vision than
prolonged imprisonment, he naturally began to ruminate on a
plan of escape, which, after months of preparation, he managed
to accomplish; considerately leaving his dinner-knife in the heart
of his jailer, lest the poor fellow (who had a family) should be
considered privy to his flight, and punished accordingly by the
infuriated king.

'The monarch was frantic at the loss of his son. He knew not
on whom to vent his grief and wrath, until fortunately bethinking
himself of the lord chamberlain who had brought him home, he
struck off his pension and his head together.

'Meanwhile, the young prince, effectually disguised, wandered
on foot through his father's dominions, cheered and supported
in all his hardships by sweet thoughts of the Athenian maid, who
was the innocent cause of his weary trials. One day he stopped
to rest in a country village; and seeing that there were gay dances
going forward on the green, and gay faces passing to and fro,
ventured to inquire of a reveller who stood near him, the reason
for this rejoicing.

'"Know you not, O stranger," was the reply, "of the recent
proclamation of our gracious king?"

'"Proclamation! No. What proclamation?" rejoined the
prince--for he had travelled along the by and little-frequented
ways, and knew nothing of what had passed upon the public
roads, such as they were.

'"Why," replied the peasant, "the foreign lady that our prince
wished to wed, is married to a foreign noble of her own country,
and the king proclaims the fact, and a great public festival
besides; for now, of course, Prince Bladud will come back and
marry the lady his father chose, who they say is as beautiful as
the noonday sun. Your health, sir. God save the king!"

'The prince remained to hear no more. He fled from the spot,
and plunged into the thickest recesses of a neighbouring wood.
On, on, he wandered, night and day; beneath the blazing sun, and
the cold pale moon; through the dry heat of noon, and the damp
cold of night; in the gray light of morn, and the red glare
of eve. So heedless was he of time or object, that being
bound for Athens, he wandered as far out of his way as Bath.

'There was no city where Bath stands, then. There was no
vestige of human habitation, or sign of man's resort, to bear the
name; but there was the same noble country, the same broad
expanse of hill and dale, the same beautiful channel stealing on,
far away, the same lofty mountains which, like the troubles of
life, viewed at a distance, and partially obscured by the bright
mist of its morning, lose their ruggedness and asperity, and seem
all ease and softness. Moved by the gentle beauty of the scene,
the prince sank upon the green turf, and bathed his swollen feet
in his tears.

'"Oh!" said the unhappy Bladud, clasping his hands, and
mournfully raising his eyes towards the sky, "would that my
wanderings might end here! Would that these grateful tears with
which I now mourn hope misplaced, and love despised, might
flow in peace for ever!"

'The wish was heard. It was in the time of the heathen deities,
who used occasionally to take people at their words, with a
promptness, in some cases, extremely awkward. The ground
opened beneath the prince's feet; he sank into the chasm; and
instantaneously it closed upon his head for ever, save where his
hot tears welled up through the earth, and where they have
continued to gush forth ever since.

'It is observable that, to this day, large numbers of elderly
ladies and gentlemen who have been disappointed in procuring
partners, and almost as many young ones who are anxious to
obtain them, repair annually to Bath to drink the waters, from
which they derive much strength and comfort. This is most
complimentary to the virtue of Prince Bladud's tears, and strongly
corroborative of the veracity of this legend.'

Mr. Pickwick yawned several times when he had arrived at the
end of this little manuscript, carefully refolded, and replaced it in
the inkstand drawer, and then, with a countenance expressive of
the utmost weariness, lighted his chamber candle, and went
upstairs to bed.
He stopped at Mr. Dowler's door, according to custom, and
knocked to say good-night.

'Ah!' said Dowler, 'going to bed? I wish I was. Dismal night.
Windy; isn't it?'

'Very,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Good-night.'


Mr. Pickwick went to his bedchamber, and Mr. Dowler
resumed his seat before the fire, in fulfilment of his rash promise
to sit up till his wife came home.

There are few things more worrying than sitting up for somebody,
especially if that somebody be at a party. You cannot help
thinking how quickly the time passes with them, which drags so
heavily with you; and the more you think of this, the more your
hopes of their speedy arrival decline. Clocks tick so loud, too,
when you are sitting up alone, and you seem as if you had an
under-garment of cobwebs on. First, something tickles your
right knee, and then the same sensation irritates your left. You
have no sooner changed your position, than it comes again in the
arms; when you have fidgeted your limbs into all sorts of queer
shapes, you have a sudden relapse in the nose, which you rub as
if to rub it off--as there is no doubt you would, if you could.
Eyes, too, are mere personal inconveniences; and the wick of one
candle gets an inch and a half long, while you are snuffing the
other. These, and various other little nervous annoyances,
render sitting up for a length of time after everybody else has
gone to bed, anything but a cheerful amusement.

This was just Mr. Dowler's opinion, as he sat before the fire,
and felt honestly indignant with all the inhuman people at the
party who were keeping him up. He was not put into better
humour either, by the reflection that he had taken it into his
head, early in the evening, to think he had got an ache there, and
so stopped at home. At length, after several droppings asleep,
and fallings forward towards the bars, and catchings backward
soon enough to prevent being branded in the face, Mr. Dowler
made up his mind that he would throw himself on the bed in the
back room and think--not sleep, of course.

'I'm a heavy sleeper,' said Mr. Dowler, as he flung himself on
the bed. 'I must keep awake. I suppose I shall hear a knock here.
Yes. I thought so. I can hear the watchman. There he goes.
Fainter now, though. A little fainter. He's turning the corner.
Ah!' When Mr. Dowler arrived at this point, he turned the
corner at which he had been long hesitating, and fell fast asleep.

Just as the clock struck three, there was blown into the crescent
a sedan-chair with Mrs. Dowler inside, borne by one short, fat
chairman, and one long, thin one, who had had much ado to
keep their bodies perpendicular: to say nothing of the chair.
But on that high ground, and in the crescent, which the wind
swept round and round as if it were going to tear the paving
stones up, its fury was tremendous. They were very glad to set
the chair down, and give a good round loud double-knock at the
street door.

They waited some time, but nobody came.

'Servants is in the arms o' Porpus, I think,' said the short
chairman, warming his hands at the attendant link-boy's torch.

'I wish he'd give 'em a squeeze and wake 'em,' observed the
long one.

'Knock again, will you, if you please,' cried Mrs. Dowler from
the chair. 'Knock two or three times, if you please.'

The short man was quite willing to get the job over, as soon as
possible; so he stood on the step, and gave four or five most
startling double-knocks, of eight or ten knocks a-piece, while the
long man went into the road, and looked up at the windows for
a light.

Nobody came. It was all as silent and dark as ever.

'Dear me!' said Mrs. Dowler. 'You must knock again, if you
'There ain't a bell, is there, ma'am?' said the short chairman.

'Yes, there is,' interposed the link-boy, 'I've been a-ringing at
it ever so long.'

'It's only a handle,' said Mrs. Dowler, 'the wire's broken.'

'I wish the servants' heads wos,' growled the long man.

'I must trouble you to knock again, if you please,' said Mrs.
Dowler, with the utmost politeness.

The short man did knock again several times, without producing
the smallest effect. The tall man, growing very impatient,
then relieved him, and kept on perpetually knocking double-
knocks of two loud knocks each, like an insane postman.

At length Mr. Winkle began to dream that he was at a club,
and that the members being very refractory, the chairman was
obliged to hammer the table a good deal to preserve order; then
he had a confused notion of an auction room where there were
no bidders, and the auctioneer was buying everything in; and
ultimately he began to think it just within the bounds of possibility
that somebody might be knocking at the street door. To
make quite certain, however, he remained quiet in bed for ten
minutes or so, and listened; and when he had counted two or
three-and-thirty knocks, he felt quite satisfied, and gave himself a
great deal of credit for being so wakeful.

'Rap rap-rap rap-rap rap-ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, rap!' went the knocker.

Mr. Winkle jumped out of bed, wondering very much what
could possibly be the matter, and hastily putting on his stockings
and slippers, folded his dressing-gown round him, lighted a flat
candle from the rush-light that was burning in the fireplace, and
hurried downstairs.

'Here's somebody comin' at last, ma'am,' said the
short chairman.

'I wish I wos behind him vith a bradawl,' muttered the long one.

'Who's there?' cried Mr. Winkle, undoing the chain.

'Don't stop to ask questions, cast-iron head,' replied the long
man, with great disgust, taking it for granted that the inquirer was
a footman; 'but open the door.'

'Come, look sharp, timber eyelids,' added the other encouragingly.

Mr. Winkle, being half asleep, obeyed the command mechanically,
opened the door a little, and peeped out. The first thing he
saw, was the red glare of the link-boy's torch. Startled by the
sudden fear that the house might be on fire, he hastily threw the
door wide open, and holding the candle above his head, stared
eagerly before him, not quite certain whether what he saw was a
sedan-chair or a fire-engine. At this instant there came a violent
gust of wind; the light was blown out; Mr. Winkle felt himself
irresistibly impelled on to the steps; and the door blew to, with
a loud crash.

'Well, young man, now you HAVE done it!' said the short chairman.

Mr. Winkle, catching sight of a lady's face at the window of
the sedan, turned hastily round, plied the knocker with all his
might and main, and called frantically upon the chairman to
take the chair away again.

'Take it away, take it away,' cried Mr. Winkle. 'Here's somebody
coming out of another house; put me into the chair. Hide
me! Do something with me!'

All this time he was shivering with cold; and every time he
raised his hand to the knocker, the wind took the dressing-gown
in a most unpleasant manner.

'The people are coming down the crescent now. There are
ladies with 'em; cover me up with something. Stand before me!'
roared Mr. Winkle. But the chairmen were too much exhausted
with laughing to afford him the slightest assistance, and the ladies
were every moment approaching nearer and nearer.
Mr. Winkle gave a last hopeless knock; the ladies were only a
few doors off. He threw away the extinguished candle, which, all
this time he had held above his head, and fairly bolted into the
sedan-chair where Mrs. Dowler was.

Now, Mrs. Craddock had heard the knocking and the voices
at last; and, only waiting to put something smarter on her head
than her nightcap, ran down into the front drawing-room to make
sure that it was the right party. Throwing up the window-sash
as Mr. Winkle was rushing into the chair, she no sooner caught
sight of what was going forward below, than she raised a vehement
and dismal shriek, and implored Mr. Dowler to get up
directly, for his wife was running away with another gentleman.

Upon this, Mr. Dowler bounced off the bed as abruptly as an
India-rubber ball, and rushing into the front room, arrived at one
window just as Mr. Pickwick threw up the other, when the first
object that met the gaze of both, was Mr. Winkle bolting into the

'Watchman,' shouted Dowler furiously, 'stop him--hold him
--keep him tight--shut him in, till I come down. I'll cut his
throat--give me a knife--from ear to ear, Mrs. Craddock--I
will!' And breaking from the shrieking landlady, and from Mr.
Pickwick, the indignant husband seized a small supper-knife, and
tore into the street.
But Mr. Winkle didn't wait for him. He no sooner heard the
horrible threat of the valorous Dowler, than he bounced out of
the sedan, quite as quickly as he had bounced in, and throwing
off his slippers into the road, took to his heels and tore round the
crescent, hotly pursued by Dowler and the watchman. He kept
ahead; the door was open as he came round the second time; he
rushed in, slammed it in Dowler's face, mounted to his bedroom,
locked the door, piled a wash-hand-stand, chest of drawers, and a
table against it, and packed up a few necessaries ready for flight
with the first ray of morning.

Dowler came up to the outside of the door; avowed, through
the keyhole, his steadfast determination of cutting Mr. Winkle's
throat next day; and, after a great confusion of voices in the
drawing-room, amidst which that of Mr. Pickwick was distinctly
heard endeavouring to make peace, the inmates dispersed to their
several bed-chambers, and all was quiet once more.

It is not unlikely that the inquiry may be made, where Mr.
Weller was, all this time? We will state where he was, in the next

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