The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 15-17

'Yes; so she's going to wear a white satin gown with gold spangles.'

'They'll hardly know what she's meant for; will they?' inquired Mr. Snodgrass.

'Of course they will,' replied Mr. Winkle indignantly. 'They'll see her lyre, won't they?'

'True; I forgot that,' said Mr. Snodgrass.

'I shall go as a bandit,'interposed Mr. Tupman.

'What!' said Mr. Pickwick, with a sudden start.

'As a bandit,' repeated Mr. Tupman, mildly.

'You don't mean to say,' said Mr. Pickwick, gazing with solemn sternness at his friend — 'you don't mean to say, Mr. Tupman, that it is your intention to put yourself into a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail?'

'Such IS my intention, Sir,' replied Mr. Tupman warmly. 'And why not, sir?'

'Because, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, considerably excited — 'because you are too old, Sir.'

'Too old!' exclaimed Mr. Tupman.

'And if any further ground of objection be wanting,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'you are too fat, sir.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, 'this is an insult.'

'Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone, 'it is not half the insult to you, that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail, would be to me.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, 'you're a fellow.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'you're another!'

Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into a focus by means of his spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle looked on, petrified at beholding such a scene between two such men.

'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, after a short pause, speaking in a low, deep voice, 'you have called me old.'

'I have,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'And fat.'

'I reiterate the charge.'

'And a fellow.'

'So you are!'

There was a fearful pause.

'My attachment to your person, sir,' said Mr. Tupman, speaking in a voice tremulous with emotion, and tucking up his wristbands meanwhile, 'is great — very great — but upon that person, I must take summary vengeance.'

'Come on, Sir!' replied Mr. Pickwick. Stimulated by the exciting nature of the dialogue, the heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the two bystanders to have been intended as a posture of defence.

'What!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, suddenly recovering the power of speech, of which intense astonishment had previously bereft him, and rushing between the two, at the imminent hazard of receiving an application on the temple from each — 'what! Mr. Pickwick, with the eyes of the world upon you! Mr. Tupman! who, in common with us all, derives a lustre from his undying name! For shame, gentlemen; for shame.'

The unwonted lines which momentary passion had ruled in Mr. Pickwick's clear and open brow, gradually melted away, as his young friend spoke, like the marks of a black-lead pencil beneath the softening influence of india-rubber. His countenance had resumed its usual benign expression, ere he concluded.

'I have been hasty,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'very hasty. Tupman; your hand.'

The dark shadow passed from Mr. Tupman's face, as he warmly grasped the hand of his friend.

'I have been hasty, too,' said he.

'No, no,' interrupted Mr. Pickwick, 'the fault was mine. You will wear the green velvet jacket?'

'No, no,' replied Mr. Tupman.

'To oblige me, you will,' resumed Mr. Pickwick.

'Well, well, I will,' said Mr. Tupman.

It was accordingly settled that Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, should all wear fancy-dresses. Thus Mr. Pickwick was led by the very warmth of his own good feelings to give his consent to a proceeding from which his better judgment would have recoiled — a more striking illustration of his amiable character could hardly have been conceived, even if the events recorded in these pages had been wholly imaginary.

Mr. Leo Hunter had not exaggerated the resources of Mr. Solomon Lucas. His wardrobe was extensive — very extensive — not strictly classical perhaps, not quite new, nor did it contain any one garment made precisely after the fashion of any age or time, but everything was more or less spangled; and what can be prettier than spangles! It may be objected that they are not adapted to the daylight, but everybody knows that they would glitter if there were lamps; and nothing can be clearer than that if people give fancy-balls in the day-time, and the dresses do not show quite as well as they would by night, the fault lies solely with the people who give the fancy-balls, and is in no wise chargeable on the spangles. Such was the convincing reasoning of Mr. Solomon Lucas; and influenced by such arguments did Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass engage to array themselves in costumes which his taste and experience induced him to recommend as admirably suited to the occasion.

A carriage was hired from the Town Arms, for the accommodation of the Pickwickians, and a chariot was ordered from the same repository, for the purpose of conveying Mr. and Mrs. Pott to Mrs. Leo Hunter's grounds, which Mr. Pott, as a delicate acknowledgment of having received an invitation, had already confidently predicted in the Eatanswill GAZETTE 'would present a scene of varied and delicious enchantment — a bewildering coruscation of beauty and talent — a lavish and prodigal display of hospitality — above all, a degree of splendour softened by the most exquisite taste; and adornment refined with perfect harmony and the chastest good keeping — compared with which, the fabled gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland itself would appear to be clothed in as many dark and murky colours, as must be the mind of the splenetic and unmanly being who could presume to taint with the venom of his envy, the preparations made by the virtuous and highly distinguished lady at whose shrine this humble tribute of admiration was offered.' This last was a piece of biting sarcasm against the INDEPENDENT, who, in consequence of not having been invited at all, had been, through four numbers, affecting to sneer at the whole affair, in his very largest type, with all the adjectives in capital letters.

The morning came: it was a pleasant sight to behold Mr. Tupman in full brigand's costume, with a very tight jacket, sitting like a pincushion over his back and shoulders, the upper portion of his legs incased in the velvet shorts, and the lower part thereof swathed in the complicated bandages to which all brigands are peculiarly attached. It was pleasing to see his open and ingenuous countenance, well mustachioed and corked, looking out from an open shirt collar; and to contemplate the sugar-loaf hat, decorated with ribbons of all colours, which he was compelled to carry on his knee, inasmuch as no known conveyance with a top to it, would admit of any man's carrying it between his head and the roof. Equally humorous and agreeable was the appearance of Mr. Snodgrass in blue satin trunks and cloak, white silk tights and shoes, and Grecian helmet, which everybody knows (and if they do not, Mr. Solomon Lucas did) to have been the regular, authentic, everyday costume of a troubadour, from the earliest ages down to the time of their final disappearance from the face of the earth. All this was pleasant, but this was as nothing compared with the shouting of the populace when the carriage drew up, behind Mr. Pott's chariot, which chariot itself drew up at Mr. Pott's door, which door itself opened, and displayed the great Pott accoutred as a Russian officer of justice, with a tremendous knout in his hand — tastefully typical of the stern and mighty power of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, and the fearful lashings it bestowed on public offenders.

'Bravo!' shouted Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from the passage, when they beheld the walking allegory.

'Bravo!' Mr. Pickwick was heard to exclaim, from the passage.

'Hoo-roar Pott!' shouted the populace. Amid these salutations, Mr. Pott, smiling with that kind of bland dignity which sufficiently testified that he felt his power, and knew how to exert it, got into the chariot.

Then there emerged from the house, Mrs. Pott, who would have looked very like Apollo if she hadn't had a gown on, conducted by Mr. Winkle, who, in his light-red coat could not possibly have been mistaken for anything but a sportsman, if he had not borne an equal resemblance to a general postman. Last of all came Mr. Pickwick, whom the boys applauded as loud as anybody, probably under the impression that his tights and gaiters were some remnants of the dark ages; and then the two vehicles proceeded towards Mrs. Leo Hunter's; Mr. Weller (who was to assist in waiting) being stationed on the box of that in which his master was seated.

Every one of the men, women, boys, girls, and babies, who were assembled to see the visitors in their fancy-dresses, screamed with delight and ecstasy, when Mr. Pickwick, with the brigand on one arm, and the troubadour on the other, walked solemnly up the entrance. Never were such shouts heard as those which greeted Mr. Tupman's efforts to fix the sugar-loaf hat on his head, by way of entering the garden in style.

The preparations were on the most delightful scale; fully realising the prophetic Pott's anticipations about the gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland, and at once affording a sufficient contradiction to the malignant statements of the reptile INDEPENDENT. The grounds were more than an acre and a quarter in extent, and they were filled with people! Never was such a blaze of beauty, and fashion, and literature. There was the young lady who 'did' the poetry in the Eatanswill GAZETTE, in the garb of a sultana, leaning upon the arm of the young gentleman who 'did' the review department, and who was appropriately habited in a field-marshal's uniform — the boots excepted. There were hosts of these geniuses, and any reasonable person would have thought it honour enough to meet them. But more than these, there were half a dozen lions from London — authors, real authors, who had written whole books, and printed them afterwards — and here you might see 'em, walking about, like ordinary men, smiling, and talking — aye, and talking pretty considerable nonsense too, no doubt with the benign intention of rendering themselves intelligible to the common people about them. Moreover, there was a band of music in pasteboard caps; four something-ean singers in the costume of their country, and a dozen hired waiters in the costume of THEIR country — and very dirty costume too. And above all, there was Mrs. Leo Hunter in the character of Minerva, receiving the company, and overflowing with pride and gratification at the notion of having called such distinguished individuals together.

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