'I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting you,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but before you proceed to express, and act upon, any opinion you may have formed on the statements which have been made here, I must claim my right to be heard so far as I am personally concerned.'
'Hold your tongue, Sir,' said the magistrate peremptorily.
'I must submit to you, Sir — ' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Hold your tongue, sir,' interposed the magistrate, 'or I shall order an officer to remove you.'
'You may order your officers to do whatever you please, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'and I have no doubt, from the specimen I have had of the subordination preserved amongst them, that whatever you order, they will execute, Sir; but I shall take the liberty, Sir, of claiming my right to be heard, until I am removed by force.'
'Pickvick and principle!' exclaimed Mr. Weller, in a very audible voice.
'Sam, be quiet,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Dumb as a drum vith a hole in it, Sir,' replied Sam.
Mr. Nupkins looked at Mr. Pickwick with a gaze of intense astonishment, at his displaying such unwonted temerity; and was apparently about to return a very angry reply, when Mr. Jinks pulled him by the sleeve, and whispered something in his ear. To this, the magistrate returned a half-audible answer, and then the whispering was renewed. Jinks was evidently remonstrating. At length the magistrate, gulping down, with a very bad grace, his disinclination to hear anything more, turned to Mr. Pickwick, and said sharply, 'What do you want to say?'
'First,' said Mr. Pickwick, sending a look through his spectacles, under which even Nupkins quailed, 'first, I wish to know what I and my friend have been brought here for?'
'Must I tell him?' whispered the magistrate to Jinks.
'I think you had better, sir,' whispered Jinks to the magistrate. 'An information has been sworn before me,' said the magistrate, 'that it is apprehended you are going to fight a duel, and that the other man, Tupman, is your aider and abettor in it. Therefore — eh, Mr. Jinks?'
'Therefore, I call upon you both, to — I think that's the course, Mr. Jinks?'
'To — to — what, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate pettishly.
'To find bail, sir.'
'Yes. Therefore, I call upon you both — as I was about to say when I was interrupted by my clerk — to find bail.' 'Good bail,' whispered Mr. Jinks.
'I shall require good bail,' said the magistrate.
'Town's-people,' whispered Jinks.
'They must be townspeople,' said the magistrate.
'Fifty pounds each,' whispered Jinks, 'and householders, of course.'
'I shall require two sureties of fifty pounds each,' said the magistrate aloud, with great dignity, 'and they must be householders, of course.'
'But bless my heart, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, who, together with Mr. Tupman, was all amazement and indignation; 'we are perfect strangers in this town. I have as little knowledge of any householders here, as I have intention of fighting a duel with anybody.'
'I dare say,' replied the magistrate, 'I dare say — don't you, Mr. Jinks?'
'Have you anything more to say?' inquired the magistrate.
Mr. Pickwick had a great deal more to say, which he would no doubt have said, very little to his own advantage, or the magistrate's satisfaction, if he had not, the moment he ceased speaking, been pulled by the sleeve by Mr. Weller, with whom he was immediately engaged in so earnest a conversation, that he suffered the magistrate's inquiry to pass wholly unnoticed. Mr. Nupkins was not the man to ask a question of the kind twice over; and so, with another preparatory cough, he proceeded, amidst the reverential and admiring silence of the constables, to pronounce his decision. He should fine Weller two pounds for the first assault, and three pounds for the second. He should fine Winkle two pounds, and Snodgrass one pound, besides requiring them to enter into their own recognisances to keep the peace towards all his Majesty's subjects, and especially towards his liege servant, Daniel Grummer. Pickwick and Tupman he had already held to bail.
Immediately on the magistrate ceasing to speak, Mr. Pickwick, with a smile mantling on his again good-humoured countenance, stepped forward, and said —
'I beg the magistrate's pardon, but may I request a few minutes' private conversation with him, on a matter of deep importance to himself?'
'What?' said the magistrate. Mr. Pickwick repeated his request.
'This is a most extraordinary request,' said the magistrate. 'A private interview?'
'A private interview,' replied Mr. Pickwick firmly; 'only, as a part of the information which I wish to communicate is derived from my servant, I should wish him to be present.'
The magistrate looked at Mr. Jinks; Mr. Jinks looked at the magistrate; the officers looked at each other in amazement. Mr. Nupkins turned suddenly pale. Could the man Weller, in a moment of remorse, have divulged some secret conspiracy for his assassination? It was a dreadful thought. He was a public man; and he turned paler, as he thought of Julius Caesar and Mr. Perceval.
The magistrate looked at Mr. Pickwick again, and beckoned Mr. Jinks.
'What do you think of this request, Mr. Jinks?' murmured Mr. Nupkins.
Mr. Jinks, who didn't exactly know what to think of it, and was afraid he might offend, smiled feebly, after a dubious fashion, and, screwing up the corners of his mouth, shook his head slowly from side to side.
'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate gravely, 'you are an ass.'
At this little expression of opinion, Mr. Jinks smiled again — rather more feebly than before — and edged himself, by degrees, back into his own corner.
Mr. Nupkins debated the matter within himself for a few seconds, and then, rising from his chair, and requesting Mr. Pickwick and Sam to follow him, led the way into a small room which opened into the justice-parlour. Desiring Mr. Pickwick to walk to the upper end of the little apartment, and holding his hand upon the half-closed door, that he might be able to effect an immediate escape, in case there was the least tendency to a display of hostilities, Mr. Nupkins expressed his readiness to hear the communication, whatever it might be.
'I will come to the point at once, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'it affects yourself and your credit materially. I have every reason to believe, Sir, that you are harbouring in your house a gross impostor!'
'Two,' interrupted Sam. 'Mulberry agin all natur, for tears and willainny!'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'if I am to render myself intelligible to this gentleman, I must beg you to control your feelings.'
'Wery sorry, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'but when I think o' that 'ere Job, I can't help opening the walve a inch or two.'
'In one word, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is my servant right in suspecting that a certain Captain Fitz-Marshall is in the habit of visiting here? Because,' added Mr. Pickwick, as he saw that Mr. Nupkins was about to offer a very indignant interruption, 'because if he be, I know that person to be a — '
'Hush, hush,' said Mr. Nupkins, closing the door. 'Know him to be what, Sir?'
'An unprincipled adventurer — a dishonourable character — a man who preys upon society, and makes easily-deceived people his dupes, Sir; his absurd, his foolish, his wretched dupes, Sir,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick.
'Dear me,' said Mr. Nupkins, turning very red, and altering his whole manner directly. 'Dear me, Mr. — '
'Pickvick,' said Sam.
'Pickwick,' said the magistrate, 'dear me, Mr. Pickwick — pray take a seat — you cannot mean this? Captain Fitz-Marshall!'
'Don't call him a cap'en,' said Sam, 'nor Fitz-Marshall neither; he ain't neither one nor t'other. He's a strolling actor, he is, and his name's Jingle; and if ever there was a wolf in a mulberry suit, that 'ere Job Trotter's him.'
'It is very true, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, replying to the magistrate's look of amazement; 'my only business in this town, is to expose the person of whom we now speak.'
Mr. Pickwick proceeded to pour into the horror-stricken ear of Mr. Nupkins, an abridged account of all Mr. Jingle's atrocities. He related how he had first met him; how he had eloped with Miss Wardle; how he had cheerfully resigned the lady for a pecuniary consideration; how he had entrapped himself into a lady's boarding-school at midnight; and how he (Mr. Pickwick) now felt it his duty to expose his assumption of his present name and rank.
As the narrative proceeded, all the warm blood in the body of Mr. Nupkins tingled up into the very tips of his ears. He had picked up the captain at a neighbouring race-course. Charmed with his long list of aristocratic acquaintance, his extensive travel, and his fashionable demeanour, Mrs. Nupkins and Miss Nupkins had exhibited Captain Fitz-Marshall, and quoted Captain Fitz-Marshall, and hurled Captain Fitz-Marshall at the devoted heads of their select circle of acquaintance, until their bosom friends, Mrs. Porkenham and the Misses Porkenhams, and Mr. Sidney Porkenham, were ready to burst with jealousy and despair. And now, to hear, after all, that he was a needy adventurer, a strolling player, and if not a swindler, something so very like it, that it was hard to tell the difference! Heavens! what would the Porkenhams say! What would be the triumph of Mr. Sidney Porkenham when he found that his addresses had been slighted for such a rival! How should he, Nupkins, meet the eye of old Porkenham at the next quarter-sessions! And what a handle would it be for the opposition magisterial party if the story got abroad!