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Chapter 12


CHAPTER XII
DESCRIPTIVE OF A VERY IMPORTANT PROCEEDING ON
  THE PART OF Mr. PICKWICK; NO LESS AN EPOCH IN HIS
  LIFE, THAN IN THIS HISTORY


Mr. Pickwick's apartments in Goswell Street, although on a
limited scale, were not only of a very neat and comfortable
description, but peculiarly adapted for the residence of a man
of his genius and observation.  His sitting-room was the first-floor
front, his bedroom the second-floor front; and thus, whether he were
sitting at his desk in his parlour, or standing before the dressing-
glass in his dormitory, he had an equal opportunity of contemplating
human nature in all the numerous phases it exhibits, in that not
more populous than popular thoroughfare.  His landlady, Mrs. Bardell--
the relict and sole executrix of a deceased custom-house officer--was
a comely woman of bustling manners and agreeable appearance, with a
natural genius for cooking, improved by study and long practice, into
an exquisite talent.  There were no children, no servants, no fowls.
The only other inmates of the house were a large man and a
small boy; the first a lodger, the second a production of Mrs.
Bardell's.  The large man was always home precisely at ten
o'clock at night, at which hour he regularly condensed himself
into the limits of a dwarfish French bedstead in the back parlour;
and the infantine sports and gymnastic exercises of Master
Bardell were exclusively confined to the neighbouring pavements
and gutters.  Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house;
and in it Mr. Pickwick's will was law.

To any one acquainted with these points of the domestic
economy of the establishment, and conversant with the admirable
regulation of Mr. Pickwick's mind, his appearance and behaviour
on the morning previous to that which had been fixed upon for
the journey to Eatanswill would have been most mysterious and
unaccountable.  He paced the room to and fro with hurried steps,
popped his head out of the window at intervals of about three
minutes each, constantly referred to his watch, and exhibited
many other manifestations of impatience very unusual with him.
It was evident that something of great importance was in
contemplation, but what that something was, not even Mrs. Bardell
had been enabled to discover.

'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick, at last, as that amiable
female approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the
apartment.

'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'Your little boy is a very long time gone.'

'Why it's a good long way to the Borough, sir,' remonstrated
Mrs. Bardell.

'Ah,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'very true; so it is.'
Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed
her dusting.

'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.

'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell again.
'Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people,
than to keep one?'

'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very
border of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of
matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger; 'La, Mr. Pickwick,
what a question!'

'Well, but do you?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'That depends,' said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very
near to Mr. Pickwick's elbow which was planted on the table.
'that depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr.
Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir.'

'That's very true,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'but the person I have in
my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think
possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable
knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs.
Bardell, which may be of material use to me.'

'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to her
cap-border again.

'I do,' said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont
in speaking of a subject which interested him--'I do, indeed; and
to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.'

'Dear me, sir,'exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

'You'll think it very strange now,' said the amiable Mr.
Pickwick, with a good-humoured glance at his companion, 'that
I never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentioned
it, till I sent your little boy out this morning--eh?'

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look.  She had long worshipped
Mr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once,
raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant
hopes had never dared to aspire.  Mr. Pickwick was going to
propose--a deliberate plan, too--sent her little boy to the
Borough, to get him out of the way--how thoughtful--how considerate!

'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what do you think?'

'Oh, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation,
'you're very kind, sir.'

'It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,' replied
Mrs. Bardell; 'and, of course, I should take more trouble to
please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick,
to have so much consideration for my loneliness.'

'Ah, to be sure,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I never thought of that.
When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you.
To be sure, so you will.'

'I am sure I ought to be a very happy woman,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'And your little boy--' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Bless his heart!' interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

'He, too, will have a companion,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'a
lively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week
than he would ever learn in a year.'  And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

'Oh, you dear--' said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

'Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,' said Mrs. Bardell; and
without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms
round Mr. Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears and a chorus
of sobs.

'Bless my soul,' cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick; 'Mrs.
Bardell, my good woman--dear me, what a situation--pray
consider.--Mrs. Bardell, don't--if anybody should come--'

'Oh, let them come,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically; 'I'll
never leave you --dear, kind, good soul;' and, with these words,
Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

'Mercy upon me,' said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, 'I
hear somebody coming up the stairs.  Don't, don't, there's a good
creature, don't.'  But entreaty and remonstrance were alike
unavailing; for Mrs. Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick's arms;
and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, Master
Bardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle,
and Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless.  He stood
with his lovely burden in his arms, gazing vacantly on the
countenances of his friends, without the slightest attempt at
recognition or explanation.  They, in their turn, stared at him;
and Master Bardell, in his turn, stared at everybody.

The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, and
the perplexity of Mr. Pickwick was so extreme, that they might
have remained in exactly the same relative situations until the
suspended animation of the lady was restored, had it not been for
a most beautiful and touching expression of filial affection on the
part of her youthful son.  Clad in a tight suit of corduroy,
spangled with brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at first
stood at the door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, the
impression that his mother must have suffered some personal
damage pervaded his partially developed mind, and considering
Mr. Pickwick as the aggressor, he set up an appalling and semi-
earthly kind of howling, and butting forward with his head,
commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the back
and legs, with such blows and pinches as the strength of his arm,
and the violence of his excitement, allowed.

'Take this little villain away,' said the agonised Mr. Pickwick,
'he's mad.'

'What is the matter?' said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick pettishly.  'Take away the
boy.'  (Here Mr. Winkle carried the interesting boy, screaming
and struggling, to the farther end of the apartment.) 'Now help
me, lead this woman downstairs.'

'Oh, I am better now,' said Mrs. Bardell faintly.

'Let me lead you downstairs,' said the ever-gallant Mr. Tupman.

'Thank you, sir--thank you;' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically.
And downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by
her affectionate son.

'I cannot conceive,' said Mr. Pickwick when his friend
returned--'I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that
woman.  I had merely announced to her my intention of keeping
a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in
which you found her.  Very extraordinary thing.'

'Very,' said his three friends.

'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,'
continued Mr. Pickwick.

'Very,' was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly,
and looked dubiously at each other.

This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick.  He remarked
their incredulity.  They evidently suspected him.

'There is a man in the passage now,' said Mr. Tupman.

'It's the man I spoke to you about,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I sent
for him to the Borough this morning.  Have the goodness to call
him up, Snodgrass.'

Mr. Snodgrass did as he was desired; and Mr. Samuel Weller
forthwith presented himself.

'Oh--you remember me, I suppose?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'I should think so,' replied Sam, with a patronising wink.
'Queer start that 'ere, but he was one too many for you, warn't
he?  Up to snuff and a pinch or two over--eh?'

'Never mind that matter now,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily;
'I want to speak to you about something else.  Sit down.'

'Thank'ee, sir,' said Sam.  And down he sat without further
bidding, having previously deposited his old white hat on the
landing outside the door.  ''Tain't a wery good 'un to look at,'
said Sam, 'but it's an astonishin' 'un to wear; and afore the brim
went, it was a wery handsome tile.  Hows'ever it's lighter without
it, that's one thing, and every hole lets in some air, that's another
--wentilation gossamer I calls it.'  On the delivery of this sentiment,
Mr. Weller smiled agreeably upon the assembled Pickwickians.

'Now with regard to the matter on which I, with the concurrence
of these gentlemen, sent for you,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'That's the pint, sir,' interposed Sam; 'out vith it, as the father
said to his child, when he swallowed a farden.'

'We want to know, in the first place,' said Mr. Pickwick,
'whether you have any reason to be discontented with your present
situation.'

'Afore I answers that 'ere question, gen'l'm'n,' replied Mr.
Weller, 'I should like to know, in the first place, whether you're
a-goin' to purwide me with a better?'

A sunbeam of placid benevolence played on Mr. Pickwick's
features as he said, 'I have half made up my mind to engage you
myself.'

'Have you, though?' said Sam.

Mr. Pickwick nodded in the affirmative.

'Wages?' inquired Sam.

'Twelve pounds a year,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Clothes?'

'Two suits.'

'Work?'

'To attend upon me; and travel about with me and these
gentlemen here.'
'Take the bill down,' said Sam emphatically.  'I'm let to a
single gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon.'

'You accept the situation?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Cert'nly,' replied Sam.  'If the clothes fits me half as well as
the place, they'll do.'

'You can get a character of course?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Ask the landlady o' the White Hart about that, Sir,' replied Sam.

'Can you come this evening?'

'I'll get into the clothes this minute, if they're here,' said Sam,
with great alacrity.

'Call at eight this evening,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'and if the
inquiries are satisfactory, they shall be provided.'

With the single exception of one amiable indiscretion, in
which an assistant housemaid had equally participated, the
history of Mr. Weller's conduct was so very blameless, that Mr.
Pickwick felt fully justified in closing the engagement that very
evening.  With the promptness and energy which characterised
not only the public proceedings, but all the private actions of this
extraordinary man, he at once led his new attendant to one of
those convenient emporiums where gentlemen's new and second-
hand clothes are provided, and the troublesome and inconvenient
formality of measurement dispensed with; and before night had
closed in, Mr. Weller was furnished with a grey coat with the
P. C. button, a black hat with a cockade to it, a pink striped
waistcoat, light breeches and gaiters, and a variety of other
necessaries, too numerous to recapitulate.

'Well,' said that suddenly-transformed individual, as he took
his seat on the outside of the Eatanswill coach next morning; 'I
wonder whether I'm meant to be a footman, or a groom, or a
gamekeeper, or a seedsman.  I looks like a sort of compo of every
one on 'em.  Never mind; there's a change of air, plenty to see,
and little to do; and all this suits my complaint uncommon; so
long life to the Pickvicks, says I!'


Charles Dickens