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Chapter 48


CHAPTER XLVIII
RELATES HOW Mr. PICKWICK, WITH THE ASSISTANCE
  OF SAMUEL WELLER, ESSAYED TO SOFTEN THE HEART
  OF Mr. BENJAMIN ALLEN, AND TO MOLLIFY THE WRATH
  OF Mr. ROBERT SAWYER


Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer sat together in the little
surgery behind the shop, discussing minced veal and future
prospects, when the discourse, not unnaturally, turned upon
the practice acquired by Bob the aforesaid, and his present chances
of deriving a competent independence from the honourable
profession to which he had devoted himself.

'Which, I think,' observed Mr. Bob Sawyer, pursuing the
thread of the subject--'which, I think, Ben, are rather dubious.'

'What's rather dubious?' inquired Mr. Ben Allen, at the same
time sharpening his intellect with a draught of beer.  'What's dubious?'

'Why, the chances,' responded Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'I forgot,' said Mr. Ben Allen.  'The beer has reminded me that
I forgot, Bob--yes; they ARE dubious.'

'It's wonderful how the poor people patronise me,' said Mr.
Bob Sawyer reflectively.  'They knock me up, at all hours of the
night; they take medicine to an extent which I should have
conceived impossible; they put on blisters and leeches with a
perseverance worthy of a better cause; they make additions to
their families, in a manner which is quite awful.  Six of those
last-named little promissory notes, all due on the same day, Ben,
and all intrusted to me!'

'It's very gratifying, isn't it?' said Mr. Ben Allen, holding his
plate for some more minced veal.

'Oh, very,' replied Bob; 'only not quite so much so as the
confidence of patients with a shilling or two to spare would be.
This business was capitally described in the advertisement, Ben.
It is a practice, a very extensive practice--and that's all.'

'Bob,' said Mr. Ben Allen, laying down his knife and fork, and
fixing his eyes on the visage of his friend, 'Bob, I'll tell you
what it is.'

'What is it?' inquired Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'You must make yourself, with as little delay as possible,
master of Arabella's one thousand pounds.'

'Three per cent. consolidated bank annuities, now standing in
her name in the book or books of the governor and company of
the Bank of England,' added Bob Sawyer, in legal phraseology.

'Exactly so,' said Ben.  'She has it when she comes of age, or
marries.  She wants a year of coming of age, and if you plucked
up a spirit she needn't want a month of being married.'

'She's a very charming and delightful creature,' quoth Mr.
Robert Sawyer, in reply; 'and has only one fault that I know of,
Ben.  It happens, unfortunately, that that single blemish is a want
of taste.  She don't like me.'

'It's my opinion that she don't know what she does like,' said
Mr. Ben Allen contemptuously.

'Perhaps not,' remarked Mr. Bob Sawyer.  'But it's my opinion
that she does know what she doesn't like, and that's of more importance.'

'I wish,' said Mr. Ben Allen, setting his teeth together, and
speaking more like a savage warrior who fed on raw wolf's flesh
which he carved with his fingers, than a peaceable young gentleman
who ate minced veal with a knife and fork--'I wish I knew
whether any rascal really has been tampering with her, and
attempting to engage her affections.  I think I should assassinate
him, Bob.'

'I'd put a bullet in him, if I found him out,' said Mr. Sawyer,
stopping in the course of a long draught of beer, and looking
malignantly out of the porter pot.  'If that didn't do his business,
I'd extract it afterwards, and kill him that way.'

Mr. Benjamin Allen gazed abstractedly on his friend for some
minutes in silence, and then said--

'You have never proposed to her, point-blank, Bob?'

'No.  Because I saw it would be of no use,' replied Mr. Robert
Sawyer.

'You shall do it, before you are twenty-four hours older,'
retorted Ben, with desperate calmness.  'She shall have you, or I'll
know the reason why.  I'll exert my authority.'

'Well,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, 'we shall see.'

'We shall see, my friend,' replied Mr. Ben Allen fiercely.  He
paused for a few seconds, and added in a voice broken by
emotion, 'You have loved her from a child, my friend.  You loved
her when we were boys at school together, and, even then, she
was wayward and slighted your young feelings.  Do you recollect,
with all the eagerness of a child's love, one day pressing upon her
acceptance, two small caraway-seed biscuits and one sweet
apple, neatly folded into a circular parcel with the leaf of a
copy-book?'

'I do,' replied Bob Sawyer.

'She slighted that, I think?' said Ben Allen.

'She did,' rejoined Bob.  'She said I had kept the parcel so long
in the pockets of my corduroys, that the apple was unpleasantly warm.'

'I remember,' said Mr. Allen gloomily.  'Upon which we ate it
ourselves, in alternate bites.'

Bob Sawyer intimated his recollection of the circumstance last
alluded to, by a melancholy frown; and the two friends remained
for some time absorbed, each in his own meditations.

While these observations were being exchanged between Mr.
Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen; and while the boy in the
gray livery, marvelling at the unwonted prolongation of the
dinner, cast an anxious look, from time to time, towards the
glass door, distracted by inward misgivings regarding the amount
of minced veal which would be ultimately reserved for his
individual cravings; there rolled soberly on through the streets of
Bristol, a private fly, painted of a sad green colour, drawn by a
chubby sort of brown horse, and driven by a surly-looking man
with his legs dressed like the legs of a groom, and his body
attired in the coat of a coachman.  Such appearances are common
to many vehicles belonging to, and maintained by, old ladies of
economic habits; and in this vehicle sat an old lady who was its
mistress and proprietor.

'Martin!' said the old lady, calling to the surly man, out of the
front window.

'Well?' said the surly man, touching his hat to the old lady.

'Mr. Sawyer's,' said the old lady.

'I was going there,' said the surly man.

The old lady nodded the satisfaction which this proof of the
surly man's foresight imparted to her feelings; and the surly man
giving a smart lash to the chubby horse, they all repaired to
Mr. Bob Sawyer's together.

'Martin!' said the old lady, when the fly stopped at the door of
Mr. Robert Sawyer, late Nockemorf.

'Well?' said Martin.

'Ask the lad to step out, and mind the horse.'

'I'm going to mind the horse myself,' said Martin, laying his
whip on the roof of the fly.

'I can't permit it, on any account,' said the old lady; 'your
testimony will be very important, and I must take you into the
house with me.  You must not stir from my side during the whole
interview.  Do you hear?'

'I hear,' replied Martin.

'Well; what are you stopping for?'

'Nothing,' replied Martin.  So saying, the surly man leisurely
descended from the wheel, on which he had been poising himself
on the tops of the toes of his right foot, and having summoned
the boy in the gray livery, opened the coach door, flung down the
steps, and thrusting in a hand enveloped in a dark wash-leather
glove, pulled out the old lady with as much unconcern in his
manner as if she were a bandbox.

'Dear me!' exclaimed the old lady.  'I am so flurried, now I have
got here, Martin, that I'm all in a tremble.'

Mr. Martin coughed behind the dark wash-leather gloves, but
expressed no sympathy; so the old lady, composing herself,
trotted up Mr. Bob Sawyer's steps, and Mr. Martin followed.
Immediately on the old lady's entering the shop, Mr. Benjamin
Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been putting the spirits-and-
water out of sight, and upsetting nauseous drugs to take off the
smell of the tobacco smoke, issued hastily forth in a transport of
pleasure and affection.

'My dear aunt,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen, 'how kind of you to
look in upon us!  Mr. Sawyer, aunt; my friend Mr. Bob Sawyer
whom I have spoken to you about, regarding--you know, aunt.'
And here Mr. Ben Allen, who was not at the moment extraordinarily
sober, added the word 'Arabella,' in what was meant to be
a whisper, but which was an especially audible and distinct
tone of speech which nobody could avoid hearing, if anybody
were so disposed.

'My dear Benjamin,' said the old lady, struggling with a great
shortness of breath, and trembling from head to foot, 'don't be
alarmed, my dear, but I think I had better speak to Mr. Sawyer,
alone, for a moment.  Only for one moment.'

'Bob,' said Mr. Allen, 'will you take my aunt into the surgery?'

'Certainly,' responded Bob, in a most professional voice.  'Step
this way, my dear ma'am.  Don't be frightened, ma'am.  We shall
be able to set you to rights in a very short time, I have no doubt,
ma'am.  Here, my dear ma'am.  Now then!'  With this, Mr. Bob
Sawyer having handed the old lady to a chair, shut the door,
drew another chair close to her, and waited to hear detailed the
symptoms of some disorder from which he saw in perspective a
long train of profits and advantages.

The first thing the old lady did, was to shake her head a great
many times, and began to cry.

'Nervous,' said Bob Sawyer complacently.  'Camphor-julep and
water three times a day, and composing draught at night.'

'I don't know how to begin, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady.  'It
is so very painful and distressing.'

'You need not begin, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bob Sawyer.  'I can
anticipate all you would say.  The head is in fault.'

'I should be very sorry to think it was the heart,' said the old
lady, with a slight groan.

'Not the slightest danger of that, ma'am,' replied Bob Sawyer.
'The stomach is the primary cause.'

'Mr. Sawyer!' exclaimed the old lady, starting.

'Not the least doubt of it, ma'am,' rejoined Bob, looking
wondrous wise.  'Medicine, in time, my dear ma'am, would have
prevented it all.'

'Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady, more flurried than before, 'this
conduct is either great impertinence to one in my situation, Sir,
or it arises from your not understanding the object of my visit.
If it had been in the power of medicine, or any foresight I could
have used, to prevent what has occurred, I should certainly have
done so.  I had better see my nephew at once,' said the old lady,
twirling her reticule indignantly, and rising as she spoke.

'Stop a moment, ma'am,' said Bob Sawyer; 'I'm afraid I have
not understood you.  What IS the matter, ma'am?'

'My niece, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady: 'your friend's sister.'

'Yes, ma'am,' said Bob, all impatience; for the old lady,
although much agitated, spoke with the most tantalising deliberation,
as old ladies often do.  'Yes, ma'am.'

'Left my home, Mr. Sawyer, three days ago, on a pretended
visit to my sister, another aunt of hers, who keeps the large
boarding-school, just beyond the third mile-stone, where there is
a very large laburnum-tree and an oak gate,' said the old lady,
stopping in this place to dry her eyes.

'Oh, devil take the laburnum-tree, ma'am!' said Bob, quite
forgetting his professional dignity in his anxiety.  'Get on a little
faster; put a little more steam on, ma'am, pray.'

'This morning,' said the old lady slowly--'this morning, she--'

'She came back, ma'am, I suppose,' said Bob, with great
animation.  'Did she come back?'

'No, she did not; she wrote,' replied the old lady.

'What did she say?' inquired Bob eagerly.

'She said, Mr. Sawyer,' replied the old lady--'and it is this I
want to prepare Benjamin's mind for, gently and by degrees; she
said that she was-- I have got the letter in my pocket, Mr.
Sawyer, but my glasses are in the carriage, and I should only
waste your time if I attempted to point out the passage to you,
without them; she said, in short, Mr. Sawyer, that she was married.'
'What!' said, or rather shouted, Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'Married,' repeated the old lady.

Mr. Bob Sawyer stopped to hear no more; but darting from
the surgery into the outer shop, cried in a stentorian voice,
'Ben, my boy, she's bolted!'

Mr. Ben Allen, who had been slumbering behind the counter,
with his head half a foot or so below his knees, no sooner heard
this appalling communication, than he made a precipitate rush
at Mr. Martin, and, twisting his hand in the neck-cloth of that
taciturn servitor, expressed an obliging intention of choking him
where he stood.  This intention, with a promptitude often the
effect of desperation, he at once commenced carrying into
execution, with much vigour and surgical skill.

Mr. Martin, who was a man of few words and possessed but
little power of eloquence or persuasion, submitted to this
operation with a very calm and agreeable expression of countenance,
for some seconds; finding, however, that it threatened
speedily to lead to a result which would place it beyond his power
to claim any wages, board or otherwise, in all time to come, he
muttered an inarticulate remonstrance and felled Mr. Benjamin
Allen to the ground.  As that gentleman had his hands entangled
in his cravat, he had no alternative but to follow him to the floor.
There they both lay struggling, when the shop door opened, and
the party was increased by the arrival of two most unexpected
visitors, to wit, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Samuel Weller.

The impression at once produced on Mr. Weller's mind by
what he saw, was, that Mr. Martin was hired by the establishment
of Sawyer, late Nockemorf, to take strong medicine, or to go into
fits and be experimentalised upon, or to swallow poison now and
then with the view of testing the efficacy of some new antidotes,
or to do something or other to promote the great science of
medicine, and gratify the ardent spirit of inquiry burning in the
bosoms of its two young professors.  So, without presuming to
interfere, Sam stood perfectly still, and looked on, as if he were
mightily interested in the result of the then pending experiment.
Not so, Mr. Pickwick.  He at once threw himself on the astonished
combatants, with his accustomed energy, and loudly called upon
the bystanders to interpose.

This roused Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been hitherto quite
paralysed by the frenzy of his companion.  With that gentleman's
assistance, Mr. Pickwick raised Ben Allen to his feet.  Mr. Martin
finding himself alone on the floor, got up, and looked about him.

'Mr. Allen,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what is the matter, Sir?'

'Never mind, Sir!' replied Mr. Allen, with haughty defiance.

'What is it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, looking at Bob Sawyer.
'Is he unwell?'

Before Bob could reply, Mr. Ben Allen seized Mr. Pickwick by
the hand, and murmured, in sorrowful accents, 'My sister, my
dear Sir; my sister.'

'Oh, is that all!' said Mr. Pickwick.  'We shall easily arrange
that matter, I hope.  Your sister is safe and well, and I am here,
my dear Sir, to--'

'Sorry to do anythin' as may cause an interruption to such
wery pleasant proceedin's, as the king said wen he dissolved the
parliament,' interposed Mr. Weller, who had been peeping
through the glass door; 'but there's another experiment here, sir.
Here's a wenerable old lady a--lyin' on the carpet waitin' for
dissection, or galwinism, or some other rewivin' and scientific
inwention.'

'I forgot,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen.  'It is my aunt.'

'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick.  'Poor lady!  Gently Sam, gently.'

'Strange sitivation for one o' the family,' observed Sam Weller,
hoisting the aunt into a chair.  'Now depitty sawbones, bring out
the wollatilly!'

The latter observation was addressed to the boy in gray, who,
having handed over the fly to the care of the street-keeper, had
come back to see what all the noise was about.  Between the boy
in gray, and Mr. Bob Sawyer, and Mr. Benjamin Allen (who
having frightened his aunt into a fainting fit, was affectionately
solicitous for her recovery) the old lady was at length restored to
consciousness; then Mr. Ben Allen, turning with a puzzled
countenance to Mr. Pickwick, asked him what he was about to
say, when he had been so alarmingly interrupted.

'We are all friends here, I presume?' said Mr. Pickwick,
clearing his voice, and looking towards the man of few words
with the surly countenance, who drove the fly with the chubby horse.

This reminded Mr. Bob Sawyer that the boy in gray was looking
on, with eyes wide open, and greedy ears.  The incipient
chemist having been lifted up by his coat collar, and dropped
outside the door, Bob Sawyer assured Mr. Pickwick that he
might speak without reserve.

'Your sister, my dear Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, turning to
Benjamin Allen, 'is in London; well and happy.'

'Her happiness is no object to me, sir,' said Benjamin Allen,
with a flourish of the hand.

'Her husband IS an object to ME, Sir,' said Bob Sawyer.  'He
shall be an object to me, sir, at twelve paces, and a pretty object
I'll make of him, sir--a mean-spirited scoundrel!'  This, as it
stood, was a very pretty denunciation, and magnanimous withal;
but Mr. Bob Sawyer rather weakened its effect, by winding up
with some general observations concerning the punching of
heads and knocking out of eyes, which were commonplace by comparison.

'Stay, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'before you apply those epithets
to the gentleman in question, consider, dispassionately, the
extent of his fault, and above all remember that he is a friend of mine.'

'What!' said Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'His name!' cried Ben Allen.  'His name!'

'Mr. Nathaniel Winkle,' said Mr, Pickwick.

Mr. Benjamin Allen deliberately crushed his spectacles beneath
the heel of his boot, and having picked up the pieces, and put
them into three separate pockets, folded his arms, bit his lips, and
looked in a threatening manner at the bland features of Mr. Pickwick.

'Then it's you, is it, Sir, who have encouraged and brought
about this match?' inquired Mr. Benjamin Allen at length.

'And it's this gentleman's servant, I suppose,' interrupted the
old lady, 'who has been skulking about my house, and
endeavouring to entrap my servants to conspire against their
mistress.--Martin!'

'Well?' said the surly man, coming forward.

'Is that the young man you saw in the lane, whom you told me
about, this morning?'

Mr. Martin, who, as it has already appeared, was a man of few
words, looked at Sam Weller, nodded his head, and growled
forth, 'That's the man.'  Mr. Weller, who was never proud, gave
a smile of friendly recognition as his eyes encountered those of
the surly groom, and admitted in courteous terms, that he had
'knowed him afore.'

'And this is the faithful creature,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen,
'whom I had nearly suffocated!--Mr. Pickwick, how dare you
allow your fellow to be employed in the abduction of my sister?
I demand that you explain this matter, sir.'

'Explain it, sir!' cried Bob Sawyer fiercely.

'It's a conspiracy,' said Ben Allen.

'A regular plant,' added Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'A disgraceful imposition,' observed the old lady.

'Nothing but a do,' remarked Martin.
'Pray hear me,' urged Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Ben Allen fell into
a chair that patients were bled in, and gave way to his pocket-
handkerchief.  'I have rendered no assistance in this matter,
beyond being present at one interview between the young people
which I could not prevent, and from which I conceived my
presence would remove any slight colouring of impropriety that
it might otherwise have had; this is the whole share I have had in
the transaction, and I had no suspicion that an immediate
marriage was even contemplated.  Though, mind,' added Mr.
Pickwick, hastily checking himself--'mind, I do not say I should
have prevented it, if I had known that it was intended.'

'You hear that, all of you; you hear that?' said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

'I hope they do,' mildly observed Mr. Pickwick, looking
round, 'and,' added that gentleman, his colour mounting as he
spoke, 'I hope they hear this, Sir, also.  That from what has been
stated to me, sir, I assert that you were by no means justified
in attempting to force your sister's inclinations as you did, and
that you should rather have endeavoured by your kindness and
forbearance to have supplied the place of other nearer relations
whom she had never known, from a child.  As regards my young
friend, I must beg to add, that in every point of worldly advantage
he is, at least, on an equal footing with yourself, if not on a
much better one, and that unless I hear this question discussed
with becoming temper and moderation, I decline hearing any
more said upon the subject.'

'I wish to make a wery few remarks in addition to wot has
been put for'ard by the honourable gen'l'm'n as has jist give over,'
said Mr. Weller, stepping forth, 'wich is this here: a indiwidual
in company has called me a feller.'

'That has nothing whatever to do with the matter, Sam,' interposed
Mr. Pickwick.  'Pray hold your tongue.'

'I ain't a-goin' to say nothin' on that 'ere pint, sir,' replied
Sam, 'but merely this here.  P'raps that gen'l'm'n may think as
there wos a priory 'tachment; but there worn't nothin' o' the
sort, for the young lady said in the wery beginnin' o' the keepin'
company, that she couldn't abide him.  Nobody's cut him out,
and it 'ud ha' been jist the wery same for him if the young lady
had never seen Mr. Vinkle.  That's what I wished to say, sir, and
I hope I've now made that 'ere gen'l'm'n's mind easy.

A short pause followed these consolatory remarks of Mr.
Weller.  Then Mr. Ben Allen rising from his chair, protested that
he would never see Arabella's face again; while Mr. Bob Sawyer,
despite Sam's flattering assurance, vowed dreadful vengeance on
the happy bridegroom.

But, just when matters were at their height, and threatening to
remain so, Mr. Pickwick found a powerful assistant in the old
lady, who, evidently much struck by the mode in which he had
advocated her niece's cause, ventured to approach Mr. Benjamin
Allen with a few comforting reflections, of which the chief were,
that after all, perhaps, it was well it was no worse; the least said
the soonest mended, and upon her word she did not know that
it was so very bad after all; what was over couldn't be begun, and
what couldn't be cured must be endured; with various other
assurances of the like novel and strengthening description.  To all
of these, Mr. Benjamin Allen replied that he meant no disrespect
to his aunt, or anybody there, but if it were all the same to them,
and they would allow him to have his own way, he would rather
have the pleasure of hating his sister till death, and after it.

At length, when this determination had been announced half a
hundred times, the old lady suddenly bridling up and looking very
majestic, wished to know what she had done that no respect was
to be paid to her years or station, and that she should be obliged
to beg and pray, in that way, of her own nephew, whom she
remembered about five-and-twenty years before he was born,
and whom she had known, personally, when he hadn't a tooth
in his head; to say nothing of her presence on the first occasion
of his having his hair cut, and assistance at numerous other times
and ceremonies during his babyhood, of sufficient importance to
found a claim upon his affection, obedience, and sympathies, for ever.

While the good lady was bestowing this objurgation on
Mr. Ben Allen, Bob Sawyer and Mr. Pickwick had retired in
close conversation to the inner room, where Mr. Sawyer was
observed to apply himself several times to the mouth of a black
bottle, under the influence of which, his features gradually
assumed a cheerful and even jovial expression.  And at last he
emerged from the room, bottle in hand, and, remarking that he
was very sorry to say he had been making a fool of himself,
begged to propose the health and happiness of Mr. and Mrs.
Winkle, whose felicity, so far from envying, he would be the first
to congratulate them upon.  Hearing this, Mr. Ben Allen suddenly
arose from his chair, and, seizing the black bottle, drank the
toast so heartily, that, the liquor being strong, he became nearly
as black in the face as the bottle.  Finally, the black bottle went
round till it was empty, and there was so much shaking of hands
and interchanging of compliments, that even the metal-visaged
Mr. Martin condescended to smile.

'And now,' said Bob Sawyer, rubbing his hands, 'we'll have a
jolly night.'

'I am sorry,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that I must return to my inn.
I have not been accustomed to fatigue lately, and my journey has
tired me exceedingly.'

'You'll take some tea, Mr. Pickwick?' said the old lady, with
irresistible sweetness.

'Thank you, I would rather not,' replied that gentleman.  The
truth is, that the old lady's evidently increasing admiration was
Mr. Pickwick's principal inducement for going away.  He thought
of Mrs. Bardell; and every glance of the old lady's eyes threw him
into a cold perspiration.

As Mr. Pickwick could by no means be prevailed upon to stay,
it was arranged at once, on his own proposition, that Mr. Benjamin
Allen should accompany him on his journey to the elder
Mr. Winkle's, and that the coach should be at the door, at nine
o'clock next morning.  He then took his leave, and, followed by
Samuel Weller, repaired to the Bush.  It is worthy of remark, that
Mr. Martin's face was horribly convulsed as he shook hands with
Sam at parting, and that he gave vent to a smile and an oath
simultaneously; from which tokens it has been inferred by those
who were best acquainted with that gentleman's peculiarities,
that he expressed himself much pleased with Mr. Weller's
society, and requested the honour of his further acquaintance.

'Shall I order a private room, Sir?' inquired Sam, when they
reached the Bush.

'Why, no, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'as I dined in the
coffee-room, and shall go to bed soon, it is hardly worth while.
See who there is in the travellers' room, Sam.'

Mr. Weller departed on his errand, and presently returned to
say that there was only a gentleman with one eye; and that he
and the landlord were drinking a bowl of bishop together.

'I will join them,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'He's a queer customer, the vun-eyed vun, sir,' observed Mr.
Weller, as he led the way.  'He's a-gammonin' that 'ere landlord,
he is, sir, till he don't rightly know wether he's a-standing on the
soles of his boots or the crown of his hat.'

The individual to whom this observation referred, was sitting
at the upper end of the room when Mr. Pickwick entered, and
was smoking a large Dutch pipe, with his eye intently fixed on the
round face of the landlord; a jolly-looking old personage, to
whom he had recently been relating some tale of wonder, as was
testified by sundry disjointed exclamations of, 'Well, I wouldn't
have believed it!  The strangest thing I ever heard!  Couldn't have
supposed it possible!' and other expressions of astonishment
which burst spontaneously from his lips, as he returned the fixed
gaze of the one-eyed man.

'Servant, sir,' said the one-eyed man to Mr. Pickwick.  'Fine
night, sir.'

'Very much so indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, as the waiter
placed a small decanter of brandy, and some hot water before him.

While Mr. Pickwick was mixing his brandy-and-water, the
one-eyed man looked round at him earnestly, from time to time,
and at length said--

'I think I've seen you before.'

'I don't recollect you,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick.

'I dare say not,' said the one-eyed man.  'You didn't know me,
but I knew two friends of yours that were stopping at the Peacock
at Eatanswill, at the time of the election.'

'Oh, indeed!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

'Yes,' rejoined the one-eyed man.  'I mentioned a little circumstance
to them about a friend of mine of the name of Tom Smart.
Perhaps you've heard them speak of it.'

'Often,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, smiling.  'He was your uncle, I think?'

'No, no; only a friend of my uncle's,' replied the one-eyed man.

'He was a wonderful man, that uncle of yours, though,'
remarked the landlord shaking his head.

'Well, I think he was; I think I may say he was,' answered the
one-eyed man.  'I could tell you a story about that same uncle,
gentlemen, that would rather surprise you.'

'Could you?' said Mr. Pickwick.  'Let us hear it, by all means.'

The one-eyed bagman ladled out a glass of negus from the
bowl, and drank it; smoked a long whiff out of the Dutch pipe;
and then, calling to Sam Weller who was lingering near the door,
that he needn't go away unless he wanted to, because the story
was no secret, fixed his eye upon the landlord's, and proceeded,
in the words of the next chapter.


Charles Dickens