'Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at seven and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery — extraordinary the effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their brothers — beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thing hollow. My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.'
Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only checked by the entrance of a third party.
This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclined to baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blended with a look of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in a long brown surtout, with a black cloth waistcoat, and drab trousers. A double eyeglass dangled at his waistcoat; and on his head he wore a very low-crowned hat with a broad brim. The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pott, the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. After a few preliminary remarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said with solemnity —
'This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?'
'I believe it does,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'To which I have reason to know,' said Pott, looking towards Mr. Perker for corroboration — 'to which I have reason to know that my article of last Saturday in some degree contributed.'
'Not the least doubt of it,' said the little man.
'The press is a mighty engine, sir,' said Pott.
Mr. Pickwick yielded his fullest assent to the proposition.
'But I trust, sir,' said Pott, 'that I have never abused the enormous power I wield. I trust, sir, that I have never pointed the noble instrument which is placed in my hands, against the sacred bosom of private life, or the tender breast of individual reputation; I trust, sir, that I have devoted my energies to — to endeavours — humble they may be, humble I know they are — to instil those principles of — which — are — '
Here the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, appearing to ramble, Mr. Pickwick came to his relief, and said —
'And what, Sir,' said Pott — 'what, Sir, let me ask you as an impartial man, is the state of the public mind in London, with reference to my contest with the INDEPENDENT?'
'Greatly excited, no doubt,' interposed Mr. Perker, with a look of slyness which was very likely accidental.
'The contest,' said Pott, 'shall be prolonged so long as I have health and strength, and that portion of talent with which I am gifted. From that contest, Sir, although it may unsettle men's minds and excite their feelings, and render them incapable for the discharge of the everyday duties of ordinary life; from that contest, sir, I will never shrink, till I have set my heel upon the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT. I wish the people of London, and the people of this country to know, sir, that they may rely upon me — that I will not desert them, that I am resolved to stand by them, Sir, to the last.' 'Your conduct is most noble, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; and he grasped the hand of the magnanimous Pott. 'You are, sir, I perceive, a man of sense and talent,' said Mr. Pott, almost breathless with the vehemence of his patriotic declaration. 'I am most happy, sir, to make the acquaintance of such a man.'
'And I,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'feel deeply honoured by this expression of your opinion. Allow me, sir, to introduce you to my fellow-travellers, the other corresponding members of the club I am proud to have founded.'
'I shall be delighted,' said Mr. Pott.
Mr. Pickwick withdrew, and returning with his friends, presented them in due form to the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE.
'Now, my dear Pott,' said little Mr. Perker, 'the question is, what are we to do with our friends here?'
'We can stop in this house, I suppose,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Not a spare bed in the house, my dear sir — not a single bed.'
'Extremely awkward,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Very,' said his fellow-voyagers.
'I have an idea upon this subject,' said Mr. Pott, 'which I think may be very successfully adopted. They have two beds at the Peacock, and I can boldly say, on behalf of Mrs. Pott, that she will be delighted to accommodate Mr. Pickwick and any one of his friends, if the other two gentlemen and their servant do not object to shifting, as they best can, at the Peacock.'
After repeated pressings on the part of Mr. Pott, and repeated protestations on that of Mr. Pickwick that he could not think of incommoding or troubling his amiable wife, it was decided that it was the only feasible arrangement that could be made. So it WAS made; and after dinner together at the Town Arms, the friends separated, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass repairing to the Peacock, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle proceeding to the mansion of Mr. Pott; it having been previously arranged that they should all reassemble at the Town Arms in the morning, and accompany the Honourable Samuel Slumkey's procession to the place of nomination.
Mr. Pott's domestic circle was limited to himself and his wife. All men whom mighty genius has raised to a proud eminence in the world, have usually some little weakness which appears the more conspicuous from the contrast it presents to their general character. If Mr. Pott had a weakness, it was, perhaps, that he was rather too submissive to the somewhat contemptuous control and sway of his wife. We do not feel justified in laying any particular stress upon the fact, because on the present occasion all Mrs. Pott's most winning ways were brought into requisition to receive the two gentlemen.
'My dear,' said Mr. Pott, 'Mr. Pickwick — Mr. Pickwick of London.'
Mrs. Pott received Mr. Pickwick's paternal grasp of the hand with enchanting sweetness; and Mr. Winkle, who had not been announced at all, sidled and bowed, unnoticed, in an obscure corner.
'P. my dear' — said Mrs. Pott.
'My life,' said Mr. Pott.
'Pray introduce the other gentleman.'
'I beg a thousand pardons,' said Mr. Pott. 'Permit me, Mrs. Pott, Mr. — '
'Winkle,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Winkle,' echoed Mr. Pott; and the ceremony of introduction was complete.
'We owe you many apologies, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'for disturbing your domestic arrangements at so short a notice.'
'I beg you won't mention it, sir,' replied the feminine Pott, with vivacity. 'It is a high treat to me, I assure you, to see any new faces; living as I do, from day to day, and week to week, in this dull place, and seeing nobody.'
'Nobody, my dear!' exclaimed Mr. Pott archly.
'Nobody but you,' retorted Mrs. Pott, with asperity.
'You see, Mr. Pickwick,' said the host in explanation of his wife's lament, 'that we are in some measure cut off from many enjoyments and pleasures of which we might otherwise partake. My public station, as editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, the position which that paper holds in the country, my constant immersion in the vortex of politics — '
'P. my dear — ' interposed Mrs. Pott.
'My life — ' said the editor.
'I wish, my dear, you would endeavour to find some topic of conversation in which these gentlemen might take some rational interest.'
'But, my love,' said Mr. Pott, with great humility, 'Mr. Pickwick does take an interest in it.'
'It's well for him if he can,' said Mrs. Pott emphatically; 'I am wearied out of my life with your politics, and quarrels with the INDEPENDENT, and nonsense. I am quite astonished, P., at your making such an exhibition of your absurdity.'
'But, my dear — ' said Mr. Pott.
'Oh, nonsense, don't talk to me,' said Mrs. Pott. 'Do you play ecarte, Sir?'
'I shall be very happy to learn under your tuition,' replied Mr. Winkle.
'Well, then, draw that little table into this window, and let me get out of hearing of those prosy politics.'
'Jane,' said Mr. Pott, to the servant who brought in candles, 'go down into the office, and bring me up the file of the GAZETTE for eighteen hundred and twenty-six. I'll read you,' added the editor, turning to Mr. Pickwick — 'I'll just read you a few of the leaders I wrote at that time upon the Buff job of appointing a new tollman to the turnpike here; I rather think they'll amuse you.'
'I should like to hear them very much indeed,' said Mr. Pickwick.
Up came the file, and down sat the editor, with Mr. Pickwick at his side.
We have in vain pored over the leaves of Mr. Pickwick's note-book, in the hope of meeting with a general summary of these beautiful compositions. We have every reason to believe that he was perfectly enraptured with the vigour and freshness of the style; indeed Mr. Winkle has recorded the fact that his eyes were closed, as if with excess of pleasure, during the whole time of their perusal.
The announcement of supper put a stop both to the game of ecarte, and the recapitulation of the beauties of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. Mrs. Pott was in the highest spirits and the most agreeable humour. Mr. Winkle had already made considerable progress in her good opinion, and she did not hesitate to inform him, confidentially, that Mr. Pickwick was 'a delightful old dear.' These terms convey a familiarity of expression, in which few of those who were intimately acquainted with that colossal-minded man, would have presumed to indulge. We have preserved them, nevertheless, as affording at once a touching and a convincing proof of the estimation in which he was held by every class of society, and the case with which he made his way to their hearts and feelings.
It was a late hour of the night — long after Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had fallen asleep in the inmost recesses of the Peacock — when the two friends retired to rest. Slumber soon fell upon the senses of Mr. Winkle, but his feelings had been excited, and his admiration roused; and for many hours after sleep had rendered him insensible to earthly objects, the face and figure of the agreeable Mrs. Pott presented themselves again and again to his wandering imagination.