CHAPTER XXII. Mr. PICKWICK JOURNEYS TO IPSWICH AND MEETS WITH A ROMANTIC ADVENTURE WITH A MIDDLE-AGED LADY IN YELLOW CURL-PAPERS
'That 'ere your governor's luggage, Sammy?' inquired Mr. Weller of his affectionate son, as he entered the yard of the Bull Inn, Whitechapel, with a travelling-bag and a small portmanteau.
'You might ha' made a worser guess than that, old feller,' replied Mr. Weller the younger, setting down his burden in the yard, and sitting himself down upon it afterwards. 'The governor hisself'll be down here presently.'
'He's a-cabbin' it, I suppose?' said the father.
'Yes, he's a havin' two mile o' danger at eight-pence,' responded the son. 'How's mother-in-law this mornin'?'
'Queer, Sammy, queer,' replied the elder Mr. Weller, with impressive gravity. 'She's been gettin' rayther in the Methodistical order lately, Sammy; and she is uncommon pious, to be sure. She's too good a creetur for me, Sammy. I feel I don't deserve her.'
'Ah,' said Mr. Samuel. 'that's wery self-denyin' o' you.'
'Wery,' replied his parent, with a sigh. 'She's got hold o' some inwention for grown-up people being born again, Sammy — the new birth, I think they calls it. I should wery much like to see that system in haction, Sammy. I should wery much like to see your mother-in-law born again. Wouldn't I put her out to nurse!'
'What do you think them women does t'other day,' continued Mr. Weller, after a short pause, during which he had significantly struck the side of his nose with his forefinger some half-dozen times. 'What do you think they does, t'other day, Sammy?'
'Don't know,' replied Sam, 'what?'
'Goes and gets up a grand tea drinkin' for a feller they calls their shepherd,' said Mr. Weller. 'I was a-standing starin' in at the pictur shop down at our place, when I sees a little bill about it; "tickets half-a-crown. All applications to be made to the committee. Secretary, Mrs. Weller"; and when I got home there was the committee a-sittin' in our back parlour. Fourteen women; I wish you could ha' heard 'em, Sammy. There they was, a-passin' resolutions, and wotin' supplies, and all sorts o' games. Well, what with your mother-in-law a-worrying me to go, and what with my looking for'ard to seein' some queer starts if I did, I put my name down for a ticket; at six o'clock on the Friday evenin' I dresses myself out wery smart, and off I goes with the old 'ooman, and up we walks into a fust-floor where there was tea-things for thirty, and a whole lot o' women as begins whisperin' to one another, and lookin' at me, as if they'd never seen a rayther stout gen'l'm'n of eight-and-fifty afore. By and by, there comes a great bustle downstairs, and a lanky chap with a red nose and a white neckcloth rushes up, and sings out, "Here's the shepherd a-coming to wisit his faithful flock;" and in comes a fat chap in black, vith a great white face, a-smilin' avay like clockwork. Such goin's on, Sammy! "The kiss of peace," says the shepherd; and then he kissed the women all round, and ven he'd done, the man vith the red nose began. I was just a-thinkin' whether I hadn't better begin too — 'specially as there was a wery nice lady a-sittin' next me — ven in comes the tea, and your mother-in-law, as had been makin' the kettle bile downstairs. At it they went, tooth and nail. Such a precious loud hymn, Sammy, while the tea was a brewing; such a grace, such eatin' and drinkin'! I wish you could ha' seen the shepherd walkin' into the ham and muffins. I never see such a chap to eat and drink — never. The red-nosed man warn't by no means the sort of person you'd like to grub by contract, but he was nothin' to the shepherd. Well; arter the tea was over, they sang another hymn, and then the shepherd began to preach: and wery well he did it, considerin' how heavy them muffins must have lied on his chest. Presently he pulls up, all of a sudden, and hollers out, "Where is the sinner; where is the mis'rable sinner?" Upon which, all the women looked at me, and began to groan as if they was a-dying. I thought it was rather sing'ler, but howsoever, I says nothing. Presently he pulls up again, and lookin' wery hard at me, says, "Where is the sinner; where is the mis'rable sinner?" and all the women groans again, ten times louder than afore. I got rather savage at this, so I takes a step or two for'ard and says, "My friend," says I, "did you apply that 'ere obserwation to me?" 'Stead of beggin' my pardon as any gen'l'm'n would ha' done, he got more abusive than ever: — called me a wessel, Sammy — a wessel of wrath — and all sorts o' names. So my blood being reg'larly up, I first gave him two or three for himself, and then two or three more to hand over to the man with the red nose, and walked off. I wish you could ha' heard how the women screamed, Sammy, ven they picked up the shepherd from underneath the table — Hollo! here's the governor, the size of life.'
As Mr. Weller spoke, Mr. Pickwick dismounted from a cab, and entered the yard. 'Fine mornin', Sir,' said Mr. Weller, senior.
'Beautiful indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Beautiful indeed,' echoes a red-haired man with an inquisitive nose and green spectacles, who had unpacked himself from a cab at the same moment as Mr. Pickwick. 'Going to Ipswich, Sir?'
'I am,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Extraordinary coincidence. So am I.'
Mr. Pickwick bowed.
'Going outside?' said the red-haired man. Mr. Pickwick bowed again.
'Bless my soul, how remarkable — I am going outside, too,' said the red-haired man; 'we are positively going together.' And the red-haired man, who was an important-looking, sharp-nosed, mysterious-spoken personage, with a bird-like habit of giving his head a jerk every time he said anything, smiled as if he had made one of the strangest discoveries that ever fell to the lot of human wisdom.
'I am happy in the prospect of your company, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah,' said the new-comer, 'it's a good thing for both of us, isn't it? Company, you see — company — is — is — it's a very different thing from solitude — ain't it?'
'There's no denying that 'ere,' said Mr. Weller, joining in the conversation, with an affable smile. 'That's what I call a self-evident proposition, as the dog's-meat man said, when the housemaid told him he warn't a gentleman.'
'Ah,' said the red-haired man, surveying Mr. Weller from head to foot with a supercilious look. 'Friend of yours, sir?'
'Not exactly a friend,' replied Mr. Pickwick, in a low tone. 'The fact is, he is my servant, but I allow him to take a good many liberties; for, between ourselves, I flatter myself he is an original, and I am rather proud of him.'
'Ah,' said the red-haired man, 'that, you see, is a matter of taste. I am not fond of anything original; I don't like it; don't see the necessity for it. What's your name, sir?'
'Here is my card, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, much amused by the abruptness of the question, and the singular manner of the stranger.
'Ah,' said the red-haired man, placing the card in his pocket-book, 'Pickwick; very good. I like to know a man's name, it saves so much trouble. That's my card, sir. Magnus, you will perceive, sir — Magnus is my name. It's rather a good name, I think, sir.'