'How are you, governor?'
'I am happy to say, I am pretty well, Sir,' said the man, speaking with great deliberation, and closing the book. 'I hope you are the same, Sir?'
'Why, if I felt less like a walking brandy-bottle I shouldn't be quite so staggery this mornin',' replied Sam. 'Are you stoppin' in this house, old 'un?'
The mulberry man replied in the affirmative.
'How was it you worn't one of us, last night?' inquired Sam, scrubbing his face with the towel. 'You seem one of the jolly sort — looks as conwivial as a live trout in a lime basket,' added Mr. Weller, in an undertone.
'I was out last night with my master,' replied the stranger.
'What's his name?' inquired Mr. Weller, colouring up very red with sudden excitement, and the friction of the towel combined.
'Fitz-Marshall,' said the mulberry man.
'Give us your hand,' said Mr. Weller, advancing; 'I should like to know you. I like your appearance, old fellow.'
'Well, that is very strange,' said the mulberry man, with great simplicity of manner. 'I like yours so much, that I wanted to speak to you, from the very first moment I saw you under the pump.' 'Did you though?'
'Upon my word. Now, isn't that curious?'
'Wery sing'ler,' said Sam, inwardly congratulating himself upon the softness of the stranger. 'What's your name, my patriarch?'
'And a wery good name it is; only one I know that ain't got a nickname to it. What's the other name?'
'Trotter,' said the stranger. 'What is yours?'
Sam bore in mind his master's caution, and replied —
'My name's Walker; my master's name's Wilkins. Will you take a drop o' somethin' this mornin', Mr. Trotter?'
Mr. Trotter acquiesced in this agreeable proposal; and having deposited his book in his coat pocket, accompanied Mr. Weller to the tap, where they were soon occupied in discussing an exhilarating compound, formed by mixing together, in a pewter vessel, certain quantities of British Hollands and the fragrant essence of the clove.
'And what sort of a place have you got?' inquired Sam, as he filled his companion's glass, for the second time.
'Bad,' said Job, smacking his lips, 'very bad.'
'You don't mean that?' said Sam.
'I do, indeed. Worse than that, my master's going to be married.'
'Yes; and worse than that, too, he's going to run away with an immense rich heiress, from boarding-school.'
'What a dragon!' said Sam, refilling his companion's glass. 'It's some boarding-school in this town, I suppose, ain't it?' Now, although this question was put in the most careless tone imaginable, Mr. Job Trotter plainly showed by gestures that he perceived his new friend's anxiety to draw forth an answer to it. He emptied his glass, looked mysteriously at his companion, winked both of his small eyes, one after the other, and finally made a motion with his arm, as if he were working an imaginary pump-handle; thereby intimating that he (Mr. Trotter) considered himself as undergoing the process of being pumped by Mr. Samuel Weller.
'No, no,' said Mr. Trotter, in conclusion, 'that's not to be told to everybody. That is a secret — a great secret, Mr. Walker.' As the mulberry man said this, he turned his glass upside down, by way of reminding his companion that he had nothing left wherewith to slake his thirst. Sam observed the hint; and feeling the delicate manner in which it was conveyed, ordered the pewter vessel to be refilled, whereat the small eyes of the mulberry man glistened.
'And so it's a secret?' said Sam.
'I should rather suspect it was,' said the mulberry man, sipping his liquor, with a complacent face.
'I suppose your mas'r's wery rich?' said Sam.
Mr. Trotter smiled, and holding his glass in his left hand, gave four distinct slaps on the pockets of his mulberry indescribables with his right, as if to intimate that his master might have done the same without alarming anybody much by the chinking of coin.
'Ah,' said Sam, 'that's the game, is it?'
The mulberry man nodded significantly.
'Well, and don't you think, old feller,' remonstrated Mr. Weller, 'that if you let your master take in this here young lady, you're a precious rascal?'
'I know that,' said Job Trotter, turning upon his companion a countenance of deep contrition, and groaning slightly, 'I know that, and that's what it is that preys upon my mind. But what am I to do?'
'Do!' said Sam; 'di-wulge to the missis, and give up your master.'
'Who'd believe me?' replied Job Trotter. 'The young lady's considered the very picture of innocence and discretion. She'd deny it, and so would my master. Who'd believe me? I should lose my place, and get indicted for a conspiracy, or some such thing; that's all I should take by my motion.'
'There's somethin' in that,' said Sam, ruminating; 'there's somethin' in that.'
'If I knew any respectable gentleman who would take the matter up,' continued Mr. Trotter. 'I might have some hope of preventing the elopement; but there's the same difficulty, Mr. Walker, just the same. I know no gentleman in this strange place; and ten to one if I did, whether he would believe my story.'
'Come this way,' said Sam, suddenly jumping up, and grasping the mulberry man by the arm. 'My mas'r's the man you want, I see.' And after a slight resistance on the part of Job Trotter, Sam led his newly-found friend to the apartment of Mr. Pickwick, to whom he presented him, together with a brief summary of the dialogue we have just repeated.
'I am very sorry to betray my master, sir,' said Job Trotter, applying to his eyes a pink checked pocket-handkerchief about six inches square.
'The feeling does you a great deal of honour,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'but it is your duty, nevertheless.'
'I know it is my duty, Sir,' replied Job, with great emotion. 'We should all try to discharge our duty, Sir, and I humbly endeavour to discharge mine, Sir; but it is a hard trial to betray a master, Sir, whose clothes you wear, and whose bread you eat, even though he is a scoundrel, Sir.'
'You are a very good fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, much affected; 'an honest fellow.'
'Come, come,' interposed Sam, who had witnessed Mr. Trotter's tears with considerable impatience, 'blow this 'ere water-cart bis'ness. It won't do no good, this won't.'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick reproachfully. 'I am sorry to find that you have so little respect for this young man's feelings.'
'His feelin's is all wery well, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'and as they're so wery fine, and it's a pity he should lose 'em, I think he'd better keep 'em in his own buzzum, than let 'em ewaporate in hot water, 'specially as they do no good. Tears never yet wound up a clock, or worked a steam ingin'. The next time you go out to a smoking party, young fellow, fill your pipe with that 'ere reflection; and for the present just put that bit of pink gingham into your pocket. 'Tain't so handsome that you need keep waving it about, as if you was a tight-rope dancer.'
'My man is in the right,' said Mr. Pickwick, accosting Job, 'although his mode of expressing his opinion is somewhat homely, and occasionally incomprehensible.'
'He is, sir, very right,' said Mr. Trotter, 'and I will give way no longer.' 'Very well,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Now, where is this boarding-school?'
'It is a large, old, red brick house, just outside the town, Sir,' replied Job Trotter.
'And when,' said Mr. Pickwick — 'when is this villainous design to be carried into execution — when is this elopement to take place?'
'To-night, Sir,' replied Job.
'To-night!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. 'This very night, sir,' replied Job Trotter. 'That is what alarms me so much.'
'Instant measures must be taken,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I will see the lady who keeps the establishment immediately.'
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Job, 'but that course of proceeding will never do.'
'Why not?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'My master, sir, is a very artful man.'
'I know he is,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'And he has so wound himself round the old lady's heart, Sir,' resumed Job, 'that she would believe nothing to his prejudice, if you went down on your bare knees, and swore it; especially as you have no proof but the word of a servant, who, for anything she knows (and my master would be sure to say so), was discharged for some fault, and does this in revenge.'
'What had better be done, then?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Nothing but taking him in the very act of eloping, will convince the old lady, sir,' replied Job.
'All them old cats WILL run their heads agin milestones,' observed Mr. Weller, in a parenthesis.
'But this taking him in the very act of elopement, would be a very difficult thing to accomplish, I fear,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I don't know, sir,' said Mr. Trotter, after a few moments' reflection. 'I think it might be very easily done.'
'How?' was Mr. Pickwick's inquiry.