'No!' said his father.
'I did,' said the son; and he proceeded to relate, in as few words as possible, how he had fallen a ready dupe to the stratagems of Job Trotter.
Mr. Weller, senior, listened to the tale with the most profound attention, and, at its termination, said —
'Worn't one o' these chaps slim and tall, with long hair, and the gift o' the gab wery gallopin'?'
Mr. Pickwick did not quite understand the last item of description, but, comprehending the first, said 'Yes,' at a venture.
'T' other's a black-haired chap in mulberry livery, with a wery large head?'
'Yes, yes, he is,' said Mr. Pickwick and Sam, with great earnestness. 'Then I know where they are, and that's all about it,' said Mr. Weller; 'they're at Ipswich, safe enough, them two.'
'No!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fact,' said Mr. Weller, 'and I'll tell you how I know it. I work an Ipswich coach now and then for a friend o' mine. I worked down the wery day arter the night as you caught the rheumatic, and at the Black Boy at Chelmsford — the wery place they'd come to — I took 'em up, right through to Ipswich, where the man-servant — him in the mulberries — told me they was a-goin' to put up for a long time.'
'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'we may as well see Ipswich as any other place. I'll follow him.'
'You're quite certain it was them, governor?' inquired Mr. Weller, junior.
'Quite, Sammy, quite,' replied his father, 'for their appearance is wery sing'ler; besides that 'ere, I wondered to see the gen'l'm'n so formiliar with his servant; and, more than that, as they sat in the front, right behind the box, I heerd 'em laughing and saying how they'd done old Fireworks.'
'Old who?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Old Fireworks, Sir; by which, I've no doubt, they meant you, Sir.' There is nothing positively vile or atrocious in the appellation of 'old Fireworks,' but still it is by no means a respectful or flattering designation. The recollection of all the wrongs he had sustained at Jingle's hands, had crowded on Mr. Pickwick's mind, the moment Mr. Weller began to speak; it wanted but a feather to turn the scale, and 'old Fireworks' did it.
'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on the table.
'I shall work down to Ipswich the day arter to-morrow, Sir,' said Mr. Weller the elder, 'from the Bull in Whitechapel; and if you really mean to go, you'd better go with me.'
'So we had,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'very true; I can write to Bury, and tell them to meet me at Ipswich. We will go with you. But don't hurry away, Mr. Weller; won't you take anything?'
'You're wery good, Sir,' replied Mr. W., stopping short; — 'perhaps a small glass of brandy to drink your health, and success to Sammy, Sir, wouldn't be amiss.'
'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'A glass of brandy here!' The brandy was brought; and Mr. Weller, after pulling his hair to Mr. Pickwick, and nodding to Sam, jerked it down his capacious throat as if it had been a small thimbleful. 'Well done, father,' said Sam, 'take care, old fellow, or you'll have a touch of your old complaint, the gout.'
'I've found a sov'rin' cure for that, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, setting down the glass.
'A sovereign cure for the gout,' said Mr. Pickwick, hastily producing his note-book — 'what is it?'
'The gout, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'the gout is a complaint as arises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you're attacked with the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loud woice, with a decent notion of usin' it, and you'll never have the gout agin. It's a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg'lar, and I can warrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too much jollity.' Having imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drained his glass once more, produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply, and slowly retired.
'Well, what do you think of what your father says, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.
'Think, Sir!' replied Mr. Weller; 'why, I think he's the wictim o' connubiality, as Blue Beard's domestic chaplain said, vith a tear of pity, ven he buried him.'
There was no replying to this very apposite conclusion, and, therefore, Mr. Pickwick, after settling the reckoning, resumed his walk to Gray's Inn. By the time he reached its secluded groves, however, eight o'clock had struck, and the unbroken stream of gentlemen in muddy high-lows, soiled white hats, and rusty apparel, who were pouring towards the different avenues of egress, warned him that the majority of the offices had closed for that day.
After climbing two pairs of steep and dirty stairs, he found his anticipations were realised. Mr. Perker's 'outer door' was closed; and the dead silence which followed Mr. Weller's repeated kicks thereat, announced that the officials had retired from business for the night.
'This is pleasant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I shouldn't lose an hour in seeing him; I shall not be able to get one wink of sleep to-night, I know, unless I have the satisfaction of reflecting that I have confided this matter to a professional man.'
'Here's an old 'ooman comin' upstairs, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'p'raps she knows where we can find somebody. Hollo, old lady, vere's Mr. Perker's people?'
'Mr. Perker's people,' said a thin, miserable-looking old woman, stopping to recover breath after the ascent of the staircase — 'Mr. Perker's people's gone, and I'm a-goin' to do the office out.' 'Are you Mr. Perker's servant?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'I am Mr. Perker's laundress,' replied the woman.
'Ah,' said Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Sam, 'it's a curious circumstance, Sam, that they call the old women in these inns, laundresses. I wonder what's that for?'
''Cos they has a mortal awersion to washing anythin', I suppose, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'I shouldn't wonder,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at the old woman, whose appearance, as well as the condition of the office, which she had by this time opened, indicated a rooted antipathy to the application of soap and water; 'do you know where I can find Mr. Perker, my good woman?'
'No, I don't,' replied the old woman gruffly; 'he's out o' town now.'
'That's unfortunate,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'where's his clerk? Do you know?'
'Yes, I know where he is, but he won't thank me for telling you,' replied the laundress.
'I have very particular business with him,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Won't it do in the morning?' said the woman.
'Not so well,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Well,' said the old woman, 'if it was anything very particular, I was to say where he was, so I suppose there's no harm in telling. If you just go to the Magpie and Stump, and ask at the bar for Mr. Lowten, they'll show you in to him, and he's Mr. Perker's clerk.'
With this direction, and having been furthermore informed that the hostelry in question was situated in a court, happy in the double advantage of being in the vicinity of Clare Market, and closely approximating to the back of New Inn, Mr. Pickwick and Sam descended the rickety staircase in safety, and issued forth in quest of the Magpie and Stump.
This favoured tavern, sacred to the evening orgies of Mr. Lowten and his companions, was what ordinary people would designate a public-house. That the landlord was a man of money-making turn was sufficiently testified by the fact of a small bulkhead beneath the tap-room window, in size and shape not unlike a sedan-chair, being underlet to a mender of shoes: and that he was a being of a philanthropic mind was evident from the protection he afforded to a pieman, who vended his delicacies without fear of interruption, on the very door-step. In the lower windows, which were decorated with curtains of a saffron hue, dangled two or three printed cards, bearing reference to Devonshire cider and Dantzic spruce, while a large blackboard, announcing in white letters to an enlightened public, that there were 500,000 barrels of double stout in the cellars of the establishment, left the mind in a state of not unpleasing doubt and uncertainty as to the precise direction in the bowels of the earth, in which this mighty cavern might be supposed to extend. When we add that the weather-beaten signboard bore the half-obliterated semblance of a magpie intently eyeing a crooked streak of brown paint, which the neighbours had been taught from infancy to consider as the 'stump,' we have said all that need be said of the exterior of the edifice.