The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 31-33

'Now, Betsy,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with great suavity, and dispersing, at the same time, the tumultuous little mob of glasses the girl had collected in the centre of the table — 'now, Betsy, the warm water; be brisk, there's a good girl.'

'You can't have no warm water,' replied Betsy.

'No warm water!' exclaimed Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'No,' said the girl, with a shake of the head which expressed a more decided negative than the most copious language could have conveyed. 'Missis Raddle said you warn't to have none.'

The surprise depicted on the countenances of his guests imparted new courage to the host.

'Bring up the warm water instantly — instantly!' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with desperate sternness.

'No. I can't,' replied the girl; 'Missis Raddle raked out the kitchen fire afore she went to bed, and locked up the kittle.'

'Oh, never mind; never mind. Pray don't disturb yourself about such a trifle,' said Mr. Pickwick, observing the conflict of Bob Sawyer's passions, as depicted in his countenance, 'cold water will do very well.'

'Oh, admirably,' said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

'My landlady is subject to some slight attacks of mental derangement,' remarked Bob Sawyer, with a ghastly smile; 'I fear I must give her warning.'

'No, don't,' said Ben Allen.

'I fear I must,' said Bob, with heroic firmness. 'I'll pay her what I owe her, and give her warning to-morrow morning.' Poor fellow! how devoutly he wished he could!

Mr. Bob Sawyer's heart-sickening attempts to rally under this last blow, communicated a dispiriting influence to the company, the greater part of whom, with the view of raising their spirits, attached themselves with extra cordiality to the cold brandy-and-water, the first perceptible effects of which were displayed in a renewal of hostilities between the scorbutic youth and the gentleman in the shirt. The belligerents vented their feelings of mutual contempt, for some time, in a variety of frownings and snortings, until at last the scorbutic youth felt it necessary to come to a more explicit understanding on the matter; when the following clear understanding took place. 'Sawyer,' said the scorbutic youth, in a loud voice.

'Well, Noddy,' replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.

'I should be very sorry, Sawyer,' said Mr. Noddy, 'to create any unpleasantness at any friend's table, and much less at yours, Sawyer — very; but I must take this opportunity of informing Mr. Gunter that he is no gentleman.'

'And I should be very sorry, Sawyer, to create any disturbance in the street in which you reside,' said Mr. Gunter, 'but I'm afraid I shall be under the necessity of alarming the neighbours by throwing the person who has just spoken, out o' window.'

'What do you mean by that, sir?' inquired Mr. Noddy.

'What I say, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'I should like to see you do it, Sir,' said Mr. Noddy.

'You shall FEEL me do it in half a minute, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'I request that you'll favour me with your card, Sir,' said Mr. Noddy.

'I'll do nothing of the kind, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'Why not, Sir?' inquired Mr. Noddy.

'Because you'll stick it up over your chimney-piece, and delude your visitors into the false belief that a gentleman has been to see you, Sir,' replied Mr. Gunter.

'Sir, a friend of mine shall wait on you in the morning,' said Mr. Noddy.

'Sir, I'm very much obliged to you for the caution, and I'll leave particular directions with the servant to lock up the spoons,' replied Mr. Gunter.

At this point the remainder of the guests interposed, and remonstrated with both parties on the impropriety of their conduct; on which Mr. Noddy begged to state that his father was quite as respectable as Mr. Gunter's father; to which Mr. Gunter replied that his father was to the full as respectable as Mr. Noddy's father, and that his father's son was as good a man as Mr. Noddy, any day in the week. As this announcement seemed the prelude to a recommencement of the dispute, there was another interference on the part of the company; and a vast quantity of talking and clamouring ensued, in the course of which Mr. Noddy gradually allowed his feelings to overpower him, and professed that he had ever entertained a devoted personal attachment towards Mr. Gunter. To this Mr. Gunter replied that, upon the whole, he rather preferred Mr. Noddy to his own brother; on hearing which admission, Mr. Noddy magnanimously rose from his seat, and proffered his hand to Mr. Gunter. Mr. Gunter grasped it with affecting fervour; and everybody said that the whole dispute had been conducted in a manner which was highly honourable to both parties concerned.

'Now,' said Jack Hopkins, 'just to set us going again, Bob, I don't mind singing a song.' And Hopkins, incited thereto by tumultuous applause, plunged himself at once into 'The King, God bless him,' which he sang as loud as he could, to a novel air, compounded of the 'Bay of Biscay,' and 'A Frog he would.' The chorus was the essence of the song; and, as each gentleman sang it to the tune he knew best, the effect was very striking indeed.

It was at the end of the chorus to the first verse, that Mr. Pickwick held up his hand in a listening attitude, and said, as soon as silence was restored —

'Hush! I beg your pardon. I thought I heard somebody calling from upstairs.'

A profound silence immediately ensued; and Mr. Bob Sawyer was observed to turn pale.

'I think I hear it now,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Have the goodness to open the door.'

The door was no sooner opened than all doubt on the subject was removed.

'Mr. Sawyer! Mr. Sawyer!' screamed a voice from the two-pair landing.

'It's my landlady,' said Bob Sawyer, looking round him with great dismay. 'Yes, Mrs. Raddle.'

'What do you mean by this, Mr. Sawyer?' replied the voice, with great shrillness and rapidity of utterance. 'Ain't it enough to be swindled out of one's rent, and money lent out of pocket besides, and abused and insulted by your friends that dares to call themselves men, without having the house turned out of the window, and noise enough made to bring the fire-engines here, at two o'clock in the morning? — Turn them wretches away.'

'You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,' said the voice of Mr. Raddle, which appeared to proceed from beneath some distant bed-clothes.

'Ashamed of themselves!' said Mrs. Raddle. 'Why don't you go down and knock 'em every one downstairs? You would if you was a man.' 'I should if I was a dozen men, my dear,' replied Mr. Raddle pacifically, 'but they have the advantage of me in numbers, my dear.'

'Ugh, you coward!' replied Mrs. Raddle, with supreme contempt. 'DO you mean to turn them wretches out, or not, Mr. Sawyer?'

'They're going, Mrs. Raddle, they're going,' said the miserable Bob. 'I am afraid you'd better go,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer to his friends. 'I thought you were making too much noise.'

'It's a very unfortunate thing,' said the prim man. 'Just as we were getting so comfortable too!' The prim man was just beginning to have a dawning recollection of the story he had forgotten.

'It's hardly to be borne,' said the prim man, looking round. 'Hardly to be borne, is it?'

'Not to be endured,' replied Jack Hopkins; 'let's have the other verse, Bob. Come, here goes!'

'No, no, Jack, don't,' interposed Bob Sawyer; 'it's a capital song, but I am afraid we had better not have the other verse. They are very violent people, the people of the house.'

'Shall I step upstairs, and pitch into the landlord?' inquired Hopkins, 'or keep on ringing the bell, or go and groan on the staircase? You may command me, Bob.'

'I am very much indebted to you for your friendship and good-nature, Hopkins,' said the wretched Mr. Bob Sawyer, 'but I think the best plan to avoid any further dispute is for us to break up at once.'

'Now, Mr. Sawyer,' screamed the shrill voice of Mrs. Raddle, 'are them brutes going?'

'They're only looking for their hats, Mrs. Raddle,' said Bob; 'they are going directly.'

'Going!' said Mrs. Raddle, thrusting her nightcap over the banisters just as Mr. Pickwick, followed by Mr. Tupman, emerged from the sitting-room. 'Going! what did they ever come for?'

'My dear ma'am,' remonstrated Mr. Pickwick, looking up.

'Get along with you, old wretch!' replied Mrs. Raddle, hastily withdrawing the nightcap. 'Old enough to be his grandfather, you willin! You're worse than any of 'em.'

Mr. Pickwick found it in vain to protest his innocence, so hurried downstairs into the street, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass. Mr. Ben Allen, who was dismally depressed with spirits and agitation, accompanied them as far as London Bridge, and in the course of the walk confided to Mr. Winkle, as an especially eligible person to intrust the secret to, that he was resolved to cut the throat of any gentleman, except Mr. Bob Sawyer, who should aspire to the affections of his sister Arabella. Having expressed his determination to perform this painful duty of a brother with proper firmness, he burst into tears, knocked his hat over his eyes, and, making the best of his way back, knocked double knocks at the door of the Borough Market office, and took short naps on the steps alternately, until daybreak, under the firm impression that he lived there, and had forgotten the key.

The visitors having all departed, in compliance with the rather pressing request of Mrs. Raddle, the luckless Mr. Bob Sawyer was left alone, to meditate on the probable events of to-morrow, and the pleasures of the evening.

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