CHAPTER XXIII. IN WHICH Mr. SAMUEL WELLER BEGINS TO DEVOTE HIS ENERGIES TO THE RETURN MATCH BETWEEN HIMSELF AND Mr. TROTTER
In a small room in the vicinity of the stableyard, betimes in the morning, which was ushered in by Mr. Pickwick's adventure with the middle — aged lady in the yellow curl-papers, sat Mr. Weller, senior, preparing himself for his journey to London. He was sitting in an excellent attitude for having his portrait taken; and here it is.
It is very possible that at some earlier period of his career, Mr. Weller's profile might have presented a bold and determined outline. His face, however, had expanded under the influence of good living, and a disposition remarkable for resignation; and its bold, fleshy curves had so far extended beyond the limits originally assigned them, that unless you took a full view of his countenance in front, it was difficult to distinguish more than the extreme tip of a very rubicund nose. His chin, from the same cause, had acquired the grave and imposing form which is generally described by prefixing the word 'double' to that expressive feature; and his complexion exhibited that peculiarly mottled combination of colours which is only to be seen in gentlemen of his profession, and in underdone roast beef. Round his neck he wore a crimson travelling-shawl, which merged into his chin by such imperceptible gradations, that it was difficult to distinguish the folds of the one, from the folds of the other. Over this, he mounted a long waistcoat of a broad pink-striped pattern, and over that again, a wide-skirted green coat, ornamented with large brass buttons, whereof the two which garnished the waist, were so far apart, that no man had ever beheld them both at the same time. His hair, which was short, sleek, and black, was just visible beneath the capacious brim of a low-crowned brown hat. His legs were encased in knee-cord breeches, and painted top-boots; and a copper watch-chain, terminating in one seal, and a key of the same material, dangled loosely from his capacious waistband.
We have said that Mr. Weller was engaged in preparing for his journey to London — he was taking sustenance, in fact. On the table before him, stood a pot of ale, a cold round of beef, and a very respectable-looking loaf, to each of which he distributed his favours in turn, with the most rigid impartiality. He had just cut a mighty slice from the latter, when the footsteps of somebody entering the room, caused him to raise his head; and he beheld his son.
'Mornin', Sammy!' said the father.
The son walked up to the pot of ale, and nodding significantly to his parent, took a long draught by way of reply.
'Wery good power o' suction, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller the elder, looking into the pot, when his first-born had set it down half empty. 'You'd ha' made an uncommon fine oyster, Sammy, if you'd been born in that station o' life.'
'Yes, I des-say, I should ha' managed to pick up a respectable livin',' replied Sam applying himself to the cold beef, with considerable vigour.
'I'm wery sorry, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller, shaking up the ale, by describing small circles with the pot, preparatory to drinking. 'I'm wery sorry, Sammy, to hear from your lips, as you let yourself be gammoned by that 'ere mulberry man. I always thought, up to three days ago, that the names of Veller and gammon could never come into contract, Sammy, never.'
'Always exceptin' the case of a widder, of course,' said Sam.
'Widders, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, slightly changing colour. 'Widders are 'ceptions to ev'ry rule. I have heerd how many ordinary women one widder's equal to in pint o' comin' over you. I think it's five-and-twenty, but I don't rightly know vether it ain't more.'
'Well; that's pretty well,' said Sam.
'Besides,' continued Mr. Weller, not noticing the interruption, 'that's a wery different thing. You know what the counsel said, Sammy, as defended the gen'l'm'n as beat his wife with the poker, venever he got jolly. "And arter all, my Lord," says he, "it's a amiable weakness." So I says respectin' widders, Sammy, and so you'll say, ven you gets as old as me.'
'I ought to ha' know'd better, I know,' said Sam.
'Ought to ha' know'd better!' repeated Mr. Weller, striking the table with his fist. 'Ought to ha' know'd better! why, I know a young 'un as hasn't had half nor quarter your eddication — as hasn't slept about the markets, no, not six months — who'd ha' scorned to be let in, in such a vay; scorned it, Sammy.' In the excitement of feeling produced by this agonising reflection, Mr. Weller rang the bell, and ordered an additional pint of ale.
'Well, it's no use talking about it now,' said Sam. 'It's over, and can't be helped, and that's one consolation, as they always says in Turkey, ven they cuts the wrong man's head off. It's my innings now, gov'nor, and as soon as I catches hold o' this 'ere Trotter, I'll have a good 'un.'
'I hope you will, Sammy. I hope you will,' returned Mr. Weller. 'Here's your health, Sammy, and may you speedily vipe off the disgrace as you've inflicted on the family name.' In honour of this toast Mr. Weller imbibed at a draught, at least two-thirds of a newly-arrived pint, and handed it over to his son, to dispose of the remainder, which he instantaneously did.
'And now, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, consulting a large double-faced silver watch that hung at the end of the copper chain. 'Now it's time I was up at the office to get my vay-bill and see the coach loaded; for coaches, Sammy, is like guns — they requires to be loaded with wery great care, afore they go off.'
At this parental and professional joke, Mr. Weller, junior, smiled a filial smile. His revered parent continued in a solemn tone —
'I'm a-goin' to leave you, Samivel, my boy, and there's no telling ven I shall see you again. Your mother-in-law may ha' been too much for me, or a thousand things may have happened by the time you next hears any news o' the celebrated Mr. Veller o' the Bell Savage. The family name depends wery much upon you, Samivel, and I hope you'll do wot's right by it. Upon all little pints o' breedin', I know I may trust you as vell as if it was my own self. So I've only this here one little bit of adwice to give you. If ever you gets to up'ards o' fifty, and feels disposed to go a-marryin' anybody — no matter who — jist you shut yourself up in your own room, if you've got one, and pison yourself off hand. Hangin's wulgar, so don't you have nothin' to say to that. Pison yourself, Samivel, my boy, pison yourself, and you'll be glad on it arterwards.' With these affecting words, Mr. Weller looked steadfastly on his son, and turning slowly upon his heel, disappeared from his sight.
In the contemplative mood which these words had awakened, Mr. Samuel Weller walked forth from the Great White Horse when his father had left him; and bending his steps towards St. Clement's Church, endeavoured to dissipate his melancholy, by strolling among its ancient precincts. He had loitered about, for some time, when he found himself in a retired spot — a kind of courtyard of venerable appearance — which he discovered had no other outlet than the turning by which he had entered. He was about retracing his steps, when he was suddenly transfixed to the spot by a sudden appearance; and the mode and manner of this appearance, we now proceed to relate.
Mr. Samuel Weller had been staring up at the old brick houses now and then, in his deep abstraction, bestowing a wink upon some healthy-looking servant girl as she drew up a blind, or threw open a bedroom window, when the green gate of a garden at the bottom of the yard opened, and a man having emerged therefrom, closed the green gate very carefully after him, and walked briskly towards the very spot where Mr. Weller was standing.
Now, taking this, as an isolated fact, unaccompanied by any attendant circumstances, there was nothing very extraordinary in it; because in many parts of the world men do come out of gardens, close green gates after them, and even walk briskly away, without attracting any particular share of public observation. It is clear, therefore, that there must have been something in the man, or in his manner, or both, to attract Mr. Weller's particular notice. Whether there was, or not, we must leave the reader to determine, when we have faithfully recorded the behaviour of the individual in question.
When the man had shut the green gate after him, he walked, as we have said twice already, with a brisk pace up the courtyard; but he no sooner caught sight of Mr. Weller than he faltered, and stopped, as if uncertain, for the moment, what course to adopt. As the green gate was closed behind him, and there was no other outlet but the one in front, however, he was not long in perceiving that he must pass Mr. Samuel Weller to get away. He therefore resumed his brisk pace, and advanced, staring straight before him. The most extraordinary thing about the man was, that he was contorting his face into the most fearful and astonishing grimaces that ever were beheld. Nature's handiwork never was disguised with such extraordinary artificial carving, as the man had overlaid his countenance with in one moment.
'Well!' said Mr. Weller to himself, as the man approached. 'This is wery odd. I could ha' swore it was him.'
Up came the man, and his face became more frightfully distorted than ever, as he drew nearer.
'I could take my oath to that 'ere black hair and mulberry suit,' said Mr. Weller; 'only I never see such a face as that afore.'
As Mr. Weller said this, the man's features assumed an unearthly twinge, perfectly hideous. He was obliged to pass very near Sam, however, and the scrutinising glance of that gentleman enabled him to detect, under all these appalling twists of feature, something too like the small eyes of Mr. Job Trotter to be easily mistaken.
'Hollo, you Sir!' shouted Sam fiercely.
The stranger stopped.
'Hollo!' repeated Sam, still more gruffly.
The man with the horrible face looked, with the greatest surprise, up the court, and down the court, and in at the windows of the houses — everywhere but at Sam Weller — and took another step forward, when he was brought to again by another shout.
'Hollo, you sir!' said Sam, for the third time.
There was no pretending to mistake where the voice came from now, so the stranger, having no other resource, at last looked Sam Weller full in the face.
'It won't do, Job Trotter,' said Sam. 'Come! None o' that 'ere nonsense. You ain't so wery 'andsome that you can afford to throw avay many o' your good looks. Bring them 'ere eyes o' yourn back into their proper places, or I'll knock 'em out of your head. D'ye hear?'