CHAPTER XXX. HOW THE PICKWICKIANS MADE AND CULTIVATED THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A COUPLE OF NICE YOUNG MEN BELONGING TO ONE OF THE LIBERAL PROFESSIONS; HOW THEY DISPORTED THEMSELVES ON THE ICE; AND HOW THEIR VISIT CAME TO A CONCLUSION
'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, as that favoured servitor entered his bed-chamber, with his warm water, on the morning of Christmas Day, 'still frosty?'
'Water in the wash-hand basin's a mask o' ice, Sir,' responded Sam.
'Severe weather, Sam,' observed Mr. Pickwick.
'Fine time for them as is well wropped up, as the Polar bear said to himself, ven he was practising his skating,' replied Mr. Weller.
'I shall be down in a quarter of an hour, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, untying his nightcap.
'Wery good, sir,' replied Sam. 'There's a couple o' sawbones downstairs.'
'A couple of what!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, sitting up in bed.
'A couple o' sawbones,' said Sam.
'What's a sawbones?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, not quite certain whether it was a live animal, or something to eat.
'What! Don't you know what a sawbones is, sir?' inquired Mr. Weller. 'I thought everybody know'd as a sawbones was a surgeon.'
'Oh, a surgeon, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.
'Just that, sir,' replied Sam. 'These here ones as is below, though, ain't reg'lar thoroughbred sawbones; they're only in trainin'.' 'In other words they're medical students, I suppose?' said Mr. Pickwick.
Sam Weller nodded assent.
'I am glad of it,' said Mr. Pickwick, casting his nightcap energetically on the counterpane. 'They are fine fellows — very fine fellows; with judgments matured by observation and reflection; and tastes refined by reading and study. I am very glad of it.'
'They're a-smokin' cigars by the kitchen fire,' said Sam.
'Ah!' observed Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his hands, 'overflowing with kindly feelings and animal spirits. Just what I like to see.' 'And one on 'em,' said Sam, not noticing his master's interruption, 'one on 'em's got his legs on the table, and is a-drinking brandy neat, vile the t'other one — him in the barnacles — has got a barrel o' oysters atween his knees, which he's a-openin' like steam, and as fast as he eats 'em, he takes a aim vith the shells at young dropsy, who's a sittin' down fast asleep, in the chimbley corner.'
'Eccentricities of genius, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'You may retire.'
Sam did retire accordingly. Mr. Pickwick at the expiration of the quarter of an hour, went down to breakfast.
'Here he is at last!' said old Mr. Wardle. 'Pickwick, this is Miss Allen's brother, Mr. Benjamin Allen. Ben we call him, and so may you, if you like. This gentleman is his very particular friend, Mr. — '
'Mr. Bob Sawyer,'interposed Mr. Benjamin Allen; whereupon Mr. Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen laughed in concert.
Mr. Pickwick bowed to Bob Sawyer, and Bob Sawyer bowed to Mr. Pickwick. Bob and his very particular friend then applied themselves most assiduously to the eatables before them; and Mr. Pickwick had an opportunity of glancing at them both.
Mr. Benjamin Allen was a coarse, stout, thick-set young man, with black hair cut rather short, and a white face cut rather long. He was embellished with spectacles, and wore a white neckerchief. Below his single-breasted black surtout, which was buttoned up to his chin, appeared the usual number of pepper-and-salt coloured legs, terminating in a pair of imperfectly polished boots. Although his coat was short in the sleeves, it disclosed no vestige of a linen wristband; and although there was quite enough of his face to admit of the encroachment of a shirt collar, it was not graced by the smallest approach to that appendage. He presented, altogether, rather a mildewy appearance, and emitted a fragrant odour of full-flavoured Cubas.
Mr. Bob Sawyer, who was habited in a coarse, blue coat, which, without being either a greatcoat or a surtout, partook of the nature and qualities of both, had about him that sort of slovenly smartness, and swaggering gait, which is peculiar to young gentlemen who smoke in the streets by day, shout and scream in the same by night, call waiters by their Christian names, and do various other acts and deeds of an equally facetious description. He wore a pair of plaid trousers, and a large, rough, double-breasted waistcoat; out of doors, he carried a thick stick with a big top. He eschewed gloves, and looked, upon the whole, something like a dissipated Robinson Crusoe.
Such were the two worthies to whom Mr. Pickwick was introduced, as he took his seat at the breakfast-table on Christmas morning.
'Splendid morning, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick.
Mr. Bob Sawyer slightly nodded his assent to the proposition, and asked Mr. Benjamin Allen for the mustard.
'Have you come far this morning, gentlemen?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Blue Lion at Muggleton,' briefly responded Mr. Allen.
'You should have joined us last night,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'So we should,' replied Bob Sawyer, 'but the brandy was too good to leave in a hurry; wasn't it, Ben?'
'Certainly,' said Mr. Benjamin Allen; 'and the cigars were not bad, or the pork-chops either; were they, Bob?'
'Decidedly not,' said Bob. The particular friends resumed their attack upon the breakfast, more freely than before, as if the recollection of last night's supper had imparted a new relish to the meal.
'Peg away, Bob,' said Mr. Allen, to his companion, encouragingly.
'So I do,' replied Bob Sawyer. And so, to do him justice, he did.
'Nothing like dissecting, to give one an appetite,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, looking round the table.
Mr. Pickwick slightly shuddered.
'By the bye, Bob,' said Mr. Allen, 'have you finished that leg yet?'
'Nearly,' replied Sawyer, helping himself to half a fowl as he spoke. 'It's a very muscular one for a child's.' 'Is it?' inquired Mr. Allen carelessly.
'Very,' said Bob Sawyer, with his mouth full.
'I've put my name down for an arm at our place,' said Mr. Allen. 'We're clubbing for a subject, and the list is nearly full, only we can't get hold of any fellow that wants a head. I wish you'd take it.'
'No,' replied 'Bob Sawyer; 'can't afford expensive luxuries.'
'Nonsense!' said Allen.
'Can't, indeed,' rejoined Bob Sawyer, 'I wouldn't mind a brain, but I couldn't stand a whole head.' 'Hush, hush, gentlemen, pray,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I hear the ladies.'
As Mr. Pickwick spoke, the ladies, gallantly escorted by Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, returned from an early walk.
'Why, Ben!' said Arabella, in a tone which expressed more surprise than pleasure at the sight of her brother.
'Come to take you home to-morrow,' replied Benjamin.
Mr. Winkle turned pale.
'Don't you see Bob Sawyer, Arabella?' inquired Mr. Benjamin Allen, somewhat reproachfully. Arabella gracefully held out her hand, in acknowledgment of Bob Sawyer's presence. A thrill of hatred struck to Mr. Winkle's heart, as Bob Sawyer inflicted on the proffered hand a perceptible squeeze.
'Ben, dear!' said Arabella, blushing; 'have — have — you been introduced to Mr. Winkle?'
'I have not been, but I shall be very happy to be, Arabella,' replied her brother gravely. Here Mr. Allen bowed grimly to Mr. Winkle, while Mr. Winkle and Mr. Bob Sawyer glanced mutual distrust out of the corners of their eyes.
The arrival of the two new visitors, and the consequent check upon Mr. Winkle and the young lady with the fur round her boots, would in all probability have proved a very unpleasant interruption to the hilarity of the party, had not the cheerfulness of Mr. Pickwick, and the good humour of the host, been exerted to the very utmost for the common weal. Mr. Winkle gradually insinuated himself into the good graces of Mr. Benjamin Allen, and even joined in a friendly conversation with Mr. Bob Sawyer; who, enlivened with the brandy, and the breakfast, and the talking, gradually ripened into a state of extreme facetiousness, and related with much glee an agreeable anecdote, about the removal of a tumour on some gentleman's head, which he illustrated by means of an oyster-knife and a half-quartern loaf, to the great edification of the assembled company. Then the whole train went to church, where Mr. Benjamin Allen fell fast asleep; while Mr. Bob Sawyer abstracted his thoughts from worldly matters, by the ingenious process of carving his name on the seat of the pew, in corpulent letters of four inches long.
'Now,' said Wardle, after a substantial lunch, with the agreeable items of strong beer and cherry-brandy, had been done ample justice to, 'what say you to an hour on the ice? We shall have plenty of time.'
'Capital!' said Mr. Benjamin Allen.
'Prime!' ejaculated Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'You skate, of course, Winkle?' said Wardle.