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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 57

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 57


For a whole week after the happy arrival of Mr. Winkle from
Birmingham, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller were from home all day
long, only returning just in time for dinner, and then wearing
an air of mystery and importance quite foreign to their natures.
It was evident that very grave and eventful proceedings were on
foot; but various surmises were afloat, respecting their precise
character. Some (among whom was Mr. Tupman) were disposed to think
that Mr. Pickwick contemplated a matrimonial alliance; but this
idea the ladies most strenuously repudiated. Others rather inclined
to the belief that he had projected some distant tour, and was at
present occupied in effecting the preliminary arrangements; but
this again was stoutly denied by Sam himself, who had unequivocally
stated, when cross-examined by Mary, that no new journeys were
to be undertaken. At length, when the brains of the whole party had
been racked for six long days, by unavailing speculation, it was
unanimously resolved that Mr. Pickwick should be called upon to
explain his conduct, and to state distinctly why he had thus absented
himself from the society of his admiring friends.

With this view, Mr. Wardle invited the full circle to dinner at
the Adelphi; and the decanters having been thrice sent round,
opened the business.

'We are all anxious to know,' said the old gentleman, 'what
we have done to offend you, and to induce you to desert us and
devote yourself to these solitary walks.'

'Are you?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'It is singular enough that I had
intended to volunteer a full explanation this very day; so, if you
will give me another glass of wine, I will satisfy your curiosity.'

The decanters passed from hand to hand with unwonted
briskness, and Mr. Pickwick, looking round on the faces of his
friends with a cheerful smile, proceeded--
'All the changes that have taken place among us,' said Mr.
Pickwick, 'I mean the marriage that HAS taken place, and the
marriage that WILL take place, with the changes they involve,
rendered it necessary for me to think, soberly and at once, upon
my future plans. I determined on retiring to some quiet, pretty
neighbourhood in the vicinity of London; I saw a house which
exactly suited my fancy; I have taken it and furnished it. It is
fully prepared for my reception, and I intend entering upon it
at once, trusting that I may yet live to spend many quiet years in
peaceful retirement, cheered through life by the society of my
friends, and followed in death by their affectionate remembrance.'

Here Mr. Pickwick paused, and a low murmur ran round the table.

'The house I have taken,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is at Dulwich.
It has a large garden, and is situated in one of the most pleasant
spots near London. It has been fitted up with every attention to
substantial comfort; perhaps to a little elegance besides; but of
that you shall judge for yourselves. Sam accompanies me there.
I have engaged, on Perker's representation, a housekeeper--a
very old one--and such other servants as she thinks I shall
require. I propose to consecrate this little retreat, by having a
ceremony in which I take a great interest, performed there. I
wish, if my friend Wardle entertains no objection, that his
daughter should be married from my new house, on the day I
take possession of it. The happiness of young people,' said
Mr. Pickwick, a little moved, 'has ever been the chief pleasure of
my life. It will warm my heart to witness the happiness of those
friends who are dearest to me, beneath my own roof.'

Mr. Pickwick paused again: Emily and Arabella sobbed audibly.

'I have communicated, both personally and by letter, with the
club,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'acquainting them with my intention.
During our long absence, it has suffered much from internal
dissentions; and the withdrawal of my name, coupled with this
and other circumstances, has occasioned its dissolution. The
Pickwick Club exists no longer.

'I shall never regret,' said Mr. Pickwick in a low voice, 'I shall
never regret having devoted the greater part of two years to
mixing with different varieties and shades of human character,
frivolous as my pursuit of novelty may have appeared to many.
Nearly the whole of my previous life having been devoted to
business and the pursuit of wealth, numerous scenes of which I
had no previous conception have dawned upon me--I hope to
the enlargement of my mind, and the improvement of my
understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done
less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a
source of amusing and pleasant recollection to me in the decline
of life. God bless you all!'

With these words, Mr. Pickwick filled and drained a bumper
with a trembling hand; and his eyes moistened as his friends
rose with one accord, and pledged him from their hearts.

There were few preparatory arrangements to be made for the
marriage of Mr. Snodgrass. As he had neither father nor mother,
and had been in his minority a ward of Mr. Pickwick's, that
gentleman was perfectly well acquainted with his possessions and
prospects. His account of both was quite satisfactory to Wardle
--as almost any other account would have been, for the good old
gentleman was overflowing with Hilarity and kindness--and a
handsome portion having been bestowed upon Emily, the
marriage was fixed to take place on the fourth day from that time
--the suddenness of which preparations reduced three dressmakers
and a tailor to the extreme verge of insanity.

Getting post-horses to the carriage, old Wardle started off,
next day, to bring his mother back to town. Communicating his
intelligence to the old lady with characteristic impetuosity, she
instantly fainted away; but being promptly revived, ordered the
brocaded silk gown to be packed up forthwith, and proceeded
to relate some circumstances of a similar nature attending the
marriage of the eldest daughter of Lady Tollimglower, deceased,
which occupied three hours in the recital, and were not half
finished at last.

Mrs. Trundle had to be informed of all the mighty preparations
that were making in London; and, being in a delicate state of
health, was informed thereof through Mr. Trundle, lest the news
should be too much for her; but it was not too much for her,
inasmuch as she at once wrote off to Muggleton, to order a new
cap and a black satin gown, and moreover avowed her determination
of being present at the ceremony. Hereupon, Mr.
Trundle called in the doctor, and the doctor said Mrs. Trundle
ought to know best how she felt herself, to which Mrs. Trundle
replied that she felt herself quite equal to it, and that she had
made up her mind to go; upon which the doctor, who was a wise
and discreet doctor, and knew what was good for himself, as well
as for other people, said that perhaps if Mrs. Trundle stopped at
home, she might hurt herself more by fretting, than by going, so
perhaps she had better go. And she did go; the doctor with great
attention sending in half a dozen of medicine, to be drunk upon
the road.

In addition to these points of distraction, Wardle was
intrusted with two small letters to two small young ladies who
were to act as bridesmaids; upon the receipt of which, the two
young ladies were driven to despair by having no 'things' ready for so
important an occasion, and no time to make them in--a circumstance
which appeared to afford the two worthy papas of the
two small young ladies rather a feeling of satisfaction than
otherwise. However, old frocks were trimmed, and new bonnets
made, and the young ladies looked as well as could possibly
have been expected of them. And as they cried at the subsequent
ceremony in the proper places, and trembled at the right times,
they acquitted themselves to the admiration of all beholders.
How the two poor relations ever reached London--whether
they walked, or got behind coaches, or procured lifts in wagons,
or carried each other by turns--is uncertain; but there they were,
before Wardle; and the very first people that knocked at the door
of Mr. Pickwick's house, on the bridal morning, were the two
poor relations, all smiles and shirt collar.

They were welcomed heartily though, for riches or poverty had
no influence on Mr. Pickwick; the new servants were all alacrity
and readiness; Sam was in a most unrivalled state of high spirits
and excitement; Mary was glowing with beauty and smart ribands.

The bridegroom, who had been staying at the house for two or
three days previous, sallied forth gallantly to Dulwich Church to
meet the bride, attended by Mr. Pickwick, Ben Allen, Bob
Sawyer, and Mr. Tupman; with Sam Weller outside, having at
his button-hole a white favour, the gift of his lady-love, and clad
in a new and gorgeous suit of livery invented for the occasion.
They were met by the Wardles, and the Winkles, and the bride
and bridesmaids, and the Trundles; and the ceremony having
been performed, the coaches rattled back to Mr. Pickwick's to
breakfast, where little Mr. Perker already awaited them.

Here, all the light clouds of the more solemn part of the
proceedings passed away; every face shone forth joyously; and
nothing was to be heard but congratulations and commendations.
Everything was so beautiful! The lawn in front, the garden
behind, the miniature conservatory, the dining-room, the
drawing-room, the bedrooms, the smoking-room, and, above all,
the study, with its pictures and easy-chairs, and odd cabinets, and
queer tables, and books out of number, with a large cheerful
window opening upon a pleasant lawn and commanding a pretty
landscape, dotted here and there with little houses almost hidden
by the trees; and then the curtains, and the carpets, and the
chairs, and the sofas! Everything was so beautiful, so compact, so
neat, and in such exquisite taste, said everybody, that there really
was no deciding what to admire most.

And in the midst of all this, stood Mr. Pickwick, his countenance
lighted up with smiles, which the heart of no man, woman,
or child, could resist: himself the happiest of the group: shaking
hands, over and over again, with the same people, and when
his own hands were not so employed, rubbing them with
pleasure: turning round in a different direction at every fresh
expression of gratification or curiosity, and inspiring everybody
with his looks of gladness and delight.

Breakfast is announced. Mr. Pickwick leads the old lady (who
has been very eloquent on the subject of Lady Tollimglower) to
the top of a long table; Wardle takes the bottom; the friends
arrange themselves on either side; Sam takes his station behind
his master's chair; the laughter and talking cease; Mr. Pickwick,
having said grace, pauses for an instant and looks round him.
As he does so, the tears roll down his cheeks, in the fullness of
his joy.

Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed
happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some,
to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows
on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men,
like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the
light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased
to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many
solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing
full upon them.

It is the fate of most men who mingle with the world, and
attain even the prime of life, to make many real friends, and lose
them in the course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or
chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and lose them in the
course of art. Nor is this the full extent of their misfortunes; for
they are required to furnish an account of them besides.

In compliance with this custom--unquestionably a bad one
--we subjoin a few biographical words, in relation to the party
at Mr. Pickwick's assembled.

Mr. and Mrs. Winkle, being fully received into favour by the
old gentleman, were shortly afterwards installed in a newly-
built house, not half a mile from Mr. Pickwick's. Mr. Winkle,
being engaged in the city as agent or town correspondent of his
father, exchanged his old costume for the ordinary dress of
Englishmen, and presented all the external appearance of a
civilised Christian ever afterwards.

Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass settled at Dingley Dell, where they
purchased and cultivated a small farm, more for occupation than
profit. Mr. Snodgrass, being occasionally abstracted and melancholy,
is to this day reputed a great poet among his friends and
acquaintance, although we do not find that he has ever written
anything to encourage the belief. There are many celebrated
characters, literary, philosophical, and otherwise, who hold a
high reputation on a similar tenure.

Mr. Tupman, when his friends married, and Mr. Pickwick
settled, took lodgings at Richmond, where he has ever since
resided. He walks constantly on the terrace during the summer
months, with a youthful and jaunty air, which has rendered him
the admiration of the numerous elderly ladies of single condition,
who reside in the vicinity. He has never proposed again.

Mr. Bob Sawyer, having previously passed through the
GAZETTE, passed over to Bengal, accompanied by Mr. Benjamin
Allen; both gentlemen having received surgical appointments
from the East India Company. They each had the yellow fever
fourteen times, and then resolved to try a little abstinence; since
which period, they have been doing well.
Mrs. Bardell let lodgings to many conversable single gentlemen,
with great profit, but never brought any more actions for breach
of promise of marriage. Her attorneys, Messrs. Dodson & Fogg,
continue in business, from which they realise a large income, and
in which they are universally considered among the sharpest of
the sharp.

Sam Weller kept his word, and remained unmarried, for two
years. The old housekeeper dying at the end of that time, Mr.
Pickwick promoted Mary to the situation, on condition of her
marrying Mr. Weller at once, which she did without a murmur.
From the circumstance of two sturdy little boys having been
repeatedly seen at the gate of the back garden, there is reason to
suppose that Sam has some family.

The elder Mr. Weller drove a coach for twelve months, but
being afflicted with the gout, was compelled to retire. The contents
of the pocket-book had been so well invested for him,
however, by Mr. Pickwick, that he had a handsome independence
to retire on, upon which he still lives at an excellent public-house
near Shooter's Hill, where he is quite reverenced as an oracle,
boasting very much of his intimacy with Mr. Pickwick, and
retaining a most unconquerable aversion to widows.

Mr. Pickwick himself continued to reside in his new house,
employing his leisure hours in arranging the memoranda which
he afterwards presented to the secretary of the once famous club,
or in hearing Sam Weller read aloud, with such remarks as
suggested themselves to his mind, which never failed to afford
Mr. Pickwick great amusement. He was much troubled at first,
by the numerous applications made to him by Mr. Snodgrass,
Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Trundle, to act as godfather to their
offspring; but he has become used to it now, and officiates as a
matter of course. He never had occasion to regret his bounty to
Mr. Jingle; for both that person and Job Trotter became, in time,
worthy members of society, although they have always steadily
objected to return to the scenes of their old haunts and temptations.
Mr. Pickwick is somewhat infirm now; but he retains all his
former juvenility of spirit, and may still be frequently seen,
contemplating the pictures in the Dulwich Gallery, or enjoying a
walk about the pleasant neighbourhood on a fine day. He is
known by all the poor people about, who never fail to take their
hats off, as he passes, with great respect. The children idolise him,
and so indeed does the whole neighbourhood. Every year he
repairs to a large family merry-making at Mr. Wardle's; on this,
as on all other occasions, he is invariably attended by the faithful
Sam, between whom and his master there exists a steady and
reciprocal attachment which nothing but death will terminate.

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