CHAPTER XV. IN WHICH IS GIVEN A FAITHFUL PORTRAITURE OF TWO DISTINGUISHED PERSONS; AND AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF A PUBLIC BREAKFAST IN THEIR HOUSE AND GROUNDS: WHICH PUBLIC BREAKFAST LEADS TO THE RECOGNITION OF AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE, AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF ANOTHER CHAPTER
Mr. Pickwick's conscience had been somewhat reproaching him for his recent neglect of his friends at the Peacock; and he was just on the point of walking forth in quest of them, on the third morning after the election had terminated, when his faithful valet put into his hand a card, on which was engraved the following inscription: —
Mrs. Leo Hunter THE DEN. EATANSWILL.
'Person's a-waitin',' said Sam, epigrammatically.
'Does the person want me, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'He wants you partickler; and no one else 'll do, as the devil's private secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus,' replied Mr. Weller.
'HE. Is it a gentleman?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'A wery good imitation o' one, if it ain't,' replied Mr. Weller.
'But this is a lady's card,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Given me by a gen'l'm'n, howsoever,' replied Sam, 'and he's a-waitin' in the drawing-room — said he'd rather wait all day, than not see you.'
Mr. Pickwick, on hearing this determination, descended to the drawing-room, where sat a grave man, who started up on his entrance, and said, with an air of profound respect: —
'Mr. Pickwick, I presume?'
'Allow me, Sir, the honour of grasping your hand. Permit me, Sir, to shake it,' said the grave man.
'Certainly,' said Mr. Pickwick. The stranger shook the extended hand, and then continued —
'We have heard of your fame, sir. The noise of your antiquarian discussion has reached the ears of Mrs. Leo Hunter — my wife, sir; I am Mr. Leo Hunter' — the stranger paused, as if he expected that Mr. Pickwick would be overcome by the disclosure; but seeing that he remained perfectly calm, proceeded —
'My wife, sir — Mrs. Leo Hunter — is proud to number among her acquaintance all those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit me, sir, to place in a conspicuous part of the list the name of Mr. Pickwick, and his brother-members of the club that derives its name from him.'
'I shall be extremely happy to make the acquaintance of such a lady, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'You SHALL make it, sir,' said the grave man. 'To-morrow morning, sir, we give a public breakfast — a FETE CHAMPETRE — to a great number of those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir, to have the gratification of seeing you at the Den.'
'With great pleasure,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Mrs. Leo Hunter has many of these breakfasts, Sir,' resumed the new acquaintance — '"feasts of reason," sir, "and flows of soul," as somebody who wrote a sonnet to Mrs. Leo Hunter on her breakfasts, feelingly and originally observed.'
'Was HE celebrated for his works and talents?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'He was Sir,' replied the grave man, 'all Mrs. Leo Hunter's acquaintances are; it is her ambition, sir, to have no other acquaintance.'
'It is a very noble ambition,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'When I inform Mrs. Leo Hunter, that that remark fell from your lips, sir, she will indeed be proud,' said the grave man. 'You have a gentleman in your train, who has produced some beautiful little poems, I think, sir.'
'My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a great taste for poetry,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'So has Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir. She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it; I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up, and entwined with it. She has produced some delightful pieces, herself, sir. You may have met with her "Ode to an Expiring Frog," sir.'
'I don't think I have,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'You astonish me, Sir,' said Mr. Leo Hunter. 'It created an immense sensation. It was signed with an "L" and eight stars, and appeared originally in a lady's magazine. It commenced —
'"Can I view thee panting, lying On thy stomach, without sighing; Can I unmoved see thee dying On a log Expiring frog!"'
'Beautiful!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fine,' said Mr. Leo Hunter; 'so simple.'
'Very,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'The next verse is still more touching. Shall I repeat it?'
'If you please,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'It runs thus,' said the grave man, still more gravely.
'"Say, have fiends in shape of boys, With wild halloo, and brutal noise, Hunted thee from marshy joys, With a dog, Expiring frog!"'
'Finely expressed,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'All point, Sir,' said Mr. Leo Hunter; 'but you shall hear Mrs. Leo Hunter repeat it. She can do justice to it, Sir. She will repeat it, in character, Sir, to-morrow morning.'
'As Minerva. But I forgot — it's a fancy-dress DEJEUNE.'
'Dear me,' said Mr. Pickwick, glancing at his own figure — 'I can't possibly — '
'Can't, sir; can't!' exclaimed Mr. Leo Hunter. 'Solomon Lucas, the Jew in the High Street, has thousands of fancy-dresses. Consider, Sir, how many appropriate characters are open for your selection. Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, Pythagoras — all founders of clubs.'
'I know that,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but as I cannot put myself in competition with those great men, I cannot presume to wear their dresses.'
The grave man considered deeply, for a few seconds, and then said —
'On reflection, Sir, I don't know whether it would not afford Mrs. Leo Hunter greater pleasure, if her guests saw a gentleman of your celebrity in his own costume, rather than in an assumed one. I may venture to promise an exception in your case, sir — yes, I am quite certain that, on behalf of Mrs. Leo Hunter, I may venture to do so.'
'In that case,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I shall have great pleasure in coming.'
'But I waste your time, Sir,' said the grave man, as if suddenly recollecting himself. 'I know its value, sir. I will not detain you. I may tell Mrs. Leo Hunter, then, that she may confidently expect you and your distinguished friends? Good-morning, Sir, I am proud to have beheld so eminent a personage — not a step sir; not a word.' And without giving Mr. Pickwick time to offer remonstrance or denial, Mr. Leo Hunter stalked gravely away.
Mr. Pickwick took up his hat, and repaired to the Peacock, but Mr. Winkle had conveyed the intelligence of the fancy-ball there, before him.
'Mrs. Pott's going,' were the first words with which he saluted his leader.
'Is she?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'As Apollo,' replied Winkle. 'Only Pott objects to the tunic.'
'He is right. He is quite right,' said Mr. Pickwick emphatically.