'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what's the matter now?'
'Here's rayther a rum go, sir,' replied Sam.
'What?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'This here, Sir,' rejoined Sam. 'I'm wery much afeerd, sir, that the properiator o' this here coach is a playin' some imperence vith us.'
'How is that, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick; 'aren't the names down on the way-bill?'
'The names is not only down on the vay-bill, Sir,' replied Sam, 'but they've painted vun on 'em up, on the door o' the coach.' As Sam spoke, he pointed to that part of the coach door on which the proprietor's name usually appears; and there, sure enough, in gilt letters of a goodly size, was the magic name of PICKWICK!
'Dear me,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite staggered by the coincidence; 'what a very extraordinary thing!'
'Yes, but that ain't all,' said Sam, again directing his master's attention to the coach door; 'not content vith writin' up "Pick-wick," they puts "Moses" afore it, vich I call addin' insult to injury, as the parrot said ven they not only took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langwidge arterwards.'
'It's odd enough, certainly, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but if we stand talking here, we shall lose our places.'
'Wot, ain't nothin' to be done in consequence, sir?' exclaimed Sam, perfectly aghast at the coolness with which Mr. Pickwick prepared to ensconce himself inside.
'Done!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'What should be done?' 'Ain't nobody to be whopped for takin' this here liberty, sir?' said Mr. Weller, who had expected that at least he would have been commissioned to challenge the guard and the coachman to a pugilistic encounter on the spot.
'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Pickwick eagerly; 'not on any account. Jump up to your seat directly.'
'I am wery much afeered,' muttered Sam to himself, as he turned away, 'that somethin' queer's come over the governor, or he'd never ha' stood this so quiet. I hope that 'ere trial hasn't broke his spirit, but it looks bad, wery bad.' Mr. Weller shook his head gravely; and it is worthy of remark, as an illustration of the manner in which he took this circumstance to heart, that he did not speak another word until the coach reached the Kensington turnpike. Which was so long a time for him to remain taciturn, that the fact may be considered wholly unprecedented.
Nothing worthy of special mention occurred during the journey. Mr. Dowler related a variety of anecdotes, all illustrative of his own personal prowess and desperation, and appealed to Mrs. Dowler in corroboration thereof; when Mrs. Dowler invariably brought in, in the form of an appendix, some remarkable fact or circumstance which Mr. Dowler had forgotten, or had perhaps through modesty, omitted; for the addenda in every instance went to show that Mr. Dowler was even a more wonderful fellow than he made himself out to be. Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle listened with great admiration, and at intervals conversed with Mrs. Dowler, who was a very agreeable and fascinating person. So, what between Mr. Dowler's stories, and Mrs. Dowler's charms, and Mr. Pickwick's good-humour, and Mr. Winkle's good listening, the insides contrived to be very companionable all the way. The outsides did as outsides always do. They were very cheerful and talkative at the beginning of every stage, and very dismal and sleepy in the middle, and very bright and wakeful again towards the end. There was one young gentleman in an India-rubber cloak, who smoked cigars all day; and there was another young gentleman in a parody upon a greatcoat, who lighted a good many, and feeling obviously unsettled after the second whiff, threw them away when he thought nobody was looking at him. There was a third young man on the box who wished to be learned in cattle; and an old one behind, who was familiar with farming. There was a constant succession of Christian names in smock-frocks and white coats, who were invited to have a 'lift' by the guard, and who knew every horse and hostler on the road and off it; and there was a dinner which would have been cheap at half-a-crown a mouth, if any moderate number of mouths could have eaten it in the time. And at seven o'clock P.m. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr. Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting-rooms at the White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, where the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion by behaving themselves much better. Breakfast had scarcely been cleared away on the succeeding morning, when a waiter brought in Mr. Dowler's card, with a request to be allowed permission to introduce a friend. Mr. Dowler at once followed up the delivery of the card, by bringing himself and the friend also.
The friend was a charming young man of not much more than fifty, dressed in a very bright blue coat with resplendent buttons, black trousers, and the thinnest possible pair of highly-polished boots. A gold eye-glass was suspended from his neck by a short, broad, black ribbon; a gold snuff-box was lightly clasped in his left hand; gold rings innumerable glittered on his fingers; and a large diamond pin set in gold glistened in his shirt frill. He had a gold watch, and a gold curb chain with large gold seals; and he carried a pliant ebony cane with a gold top. His linen was of the very whitest, finest, and stiffest; his wig of the glossiest, blackest, and curliest. His snuff was princes' mixture; his scent BOUQUET DU ROI. His features were contracted into a perpetual smile; and his teeth were in such perfect order that it was difficult at a small distance to tell the real from the false.
'Mr. Pickwick,' said Mr. Dowler; 'my friend, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C.; Bantam; Mr. Pickwick. Know each other.'
'Welcome to Ba-ath, Sir. This is indeed an acquisition. Most welcome to Ba-ath, sir. It is long — very long, Mr. Pickwick, since you drank the waters. It appears an age, Mr. Pickwick. Re-markable!'
Such were the expressions with which Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., took Mr. Pickwick's hand; retaining it in his, meantime, and shrugging up his shoulders with a constant succession of bows, as if he really could not make up his mind to the trial of letting it go again.
'It is a very long time since I drank the waters, certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'for, to the best of my knowledge, I was never here before.'
'Never in Ba-ath, Mr. Pickwick!' exclaimed the Grand Master, letting the hand fall in astonishment. 'Never in Ba-ath! He! he! Mr. Pickwick, you are a wag. Not bad, not bad. Good, good. He! he! he! Re-markable!'
'To my shame, I must say that I am perfectly serious,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'I really never was here before.'
'Oh, I see,' exclaimed the Grand Master, looking extremely pleased; 'yes, yes — good, good — better and better. You are the gentleman of whom we have heard. Yes; we know you, Mr. Pickwick; we know you.'
'The reports of the trial in those confounded papers,' thought Mr. Pickwick. 'They have heard all about me.' 'You are the gentleman residing on Clapham Green,' resumed Bantam, 'who lost the use of his limbs from imprudently taking cold after port wine; who could not be moved in consequence of acute suffering, and who had the water from the king's bath bottled at one hundred and three degrees, and sent by wagon to his bedroom in town, where he bathed, sneezed, and the same day recovered. Very remarkable!'
Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment which the supposition implied, but had the self-denial to repudiate it, notwithstanding; and taking advantage of a moment's silence on the part of the M.C., begged to introduce his friends, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass. An introduction which overwhelmed the M.C. with delight and honour.
'Bantam,' said Mr. Dowler, 'Mr. Pickwick and his friends are strangers. They must put their names down. Where's the book?'
'The register of the distinguished visitors in Ba-ath will be at the Pump Room this morning at two o'clock,' replied the M.C. 'Will you guide our friends to that splendid building, and enable me to procure their autographs?'
'I will,' rejoined Dowler. 'This is a long call. It's time to go. I shall be here again in an hour. Come.'
'This is a ball-night,' said the M.C., again taking Mr. Pickwick's hand, as he rose to go. 'The ball-nights in Ba-ath are moments snatched from paradise; rendered bewitching by music, beauty, elegance, fashion, etiquette, and — and — above all, by the absence of tradespeople, who are quite inconsistent with paradise, and who have an amalgamation of themselves at the Guildhall every fortnight, which is, to say the least, remarkable. Good-bye, good-bye!' and protesting all the way downstairs that he was most satisfied, and most delighted, and most overpowered, and most flattered, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., stepped into a very elegant chariot that waited at the door, and rattled off.
At the appointed hour, Mr. Pickwick and his friends, escorted by Dowler, repaired to the Assembly Rooms, and wrote their names down in the book — an instance of condescension at which Angelo Bantam was even more overpowered than before. Tickets of admission to that evening's assembly were to have been prepared for the whole party, but as they were not ready, Mr. Pickwick undertook, despite all the protestations to the contrary of Angelo Bantam, to send Sam for them at four o'clock in the afternoon, to the M.C.'s house in Queen Square. Having taken a short walk through the city, and arrived at the unanimous conclusion that Park Street was very much like the perpendicular streets a man sees in a dream, which he cannot get up for the life of him, they returned to the White Hart, and despatched Sam on the errand to which his master had pledged him.
Sam Weller put on his hat in a very easy and graceful manner, and, thrusting his hands in his waistcoat pockets, walked with great deliberation to Queen Square, whistling as he went along, several of the most popular airs of the day, as arranged with entirely new movements for that noble instrument the organ, either mouth or barrel. Arriving at the number in Queen Square to which he had been directed, he left off whistling and gave a cheerful knock, which was instantaneously answered by a powdered-headed footman in gorgeous livery, and of symmetrical stature.
'Is this here Mr. Bantam's, old feller?' inquired Sam Weller, nothing abashed by the blaze of splendour which burst upon his sight in the person of the powdered-headed footman with the gorgeous livery.
'Why, young man?' was the haughty inquiry of the powdered-headed footman.
''Cos if it is, jist you step in to him with that 'ere card, and say Mr. Veller's a-waitin', will you?' said Sam. And saying it, he very coolly walked into the hall, and sat down.