The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 40-41

'My name is Smangle, sir,' said the man with the whiskers.

'Oh,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Mine is Mivins,' said the man in the stockings.

'I am delighted to hear it, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Hem,' coughed Mr. Smangle.

'Did you speak, sir?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'No, I did not, sir,' said Mr. Smangle.

All this was very genteel and pleasant; and, to make matters still more comfortable, Mr. Smangle assured Mr. Pickwick a great many more times that he entertained a very high respect for the feelings of a gentleman; which sentiment, indeed, did him infinite credit, as he could be in no wise supposed to understand them.

'Are you going through the court, sir?' inquired Mr. Smangle. 'Through the what?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Through the court — Portugal Street — the Court for Relief of — You know.'

'Oh, no,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'No, I am not.'

'Going out, perhaps?' suggested Mr. Mivins.

'I fear not,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'I refuse to pay some damages, and am here in consequence.'

'Ah,' said Mr. Smangle, 'paper has been my ruin.'

'A stationer, I presume, Sir?' said Mr. Pickwick innocently.

'Stationer! No, no; confound and curse me! Not so low as that. No trade. When I say paper, I mean bills.'

'Oh, you use the word in that sense. I see,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Damme! A gentleman must expect reverses,' said Smangle. 'What of that? Here am I in the Fleet Prison. Well; good. What then? I'm none the worse for that, am I?'

'Not a bit,' replied Mr. Mivins. And he was quite right; for, so far from Mr. Smangle being any the worse for it, he was something the better, inasmuch as to qualify himself for the place, he had attained gratuitous possession of certain articles of jewellery, which, long before that, had found their way to the pawnbroker's.

'Well; but come,' said Mr. Smangle; 'this is dry work. Let's rinse our mouths with a drop of burnt sherry; the last-comer shall stand it, Mivins shall fetch it, and I'll help to drink it. That's a fair and gentlemanlike division of labour, anyhow. Curse me!'

Unwilling to hazard another quarrel, Mr. Pickwick gladly assented to the proposition, and consigned the money to Mr. Mivins, who, as it was nearly eleven o'clock, lost no time in repairing to the coffee-room on his errand.

'I say,' whispered Smangle, the moment his friend had left the room; 'what did you give him?'

'Half a sovereign,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'He's a devilish pleasant gentlemanly dog,' said Mr. Smangle; — 'infernal pleasant. I don't know anybody more so; but — ' Here Mr. Smangle stopped short, and shook his head dubiously.

'You don't think there is any probability of his appropriating the money to his own use?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Oh, no! Mind, I don't say that; I expressly say that he's a devilish gentlemanly fellow,' said Mr. Smangle. 'But I think, perhaps, if somebody went down, just to see that he didn't dip his beak into the jug by accident, or make some confounded mistake in losing the money as he came upstairs, it would be as well. Here, you sir, just run downstairs, and look after that gentleman, will you?'

This request was addressed to a little timid-looking, nervous man, whose appearance bespoke great poverty, and who had been crouching on his bedstead all this while, apparently stupefied by the novelty of his situation.

'You know where the coffee-room is,' said Smangle; 'just run down, and tell that gentleman you've come to help him up with the jug. Or — stop — I'll tell you what — I'll tell you how we'll do him,' said Smangle, with a cunning look.

'How?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Send down word that he's to spend the change in cigars. Capital thought. Run and tell him that; d'ye hear? They shan't be wasted,' continued Smangle, turning to Mr. Pickwick. 'I'LL smoke 'em.'

This manoeuvring was so exceedingly ingenious and, withal, performed with such immovable composure and coolness, that Mr. Pickwick would have had no wish to disturb it, even if he had had the power. In a short time Mr. Mivins returned, bearing the sherry, which Mr. Smangle dispensed in two little cracked mugs; considerately remarking, with reference to himself, that a gentleman must not be particular under such circumstances, and that, for his part, he was not too proud to drink out of the jug. In which, to show his sincerity, he forthwith pledged the company in a draught which half emptied it.

An excellent understanding having been by these means promoted, Mr. Smangle proceeded to entertain his hearers with a relation of divers romantic adventures in which he had been from time to time engaged, involving various interesting anecdotes of a thoroughbred horse, and a magnificent Jewess, both of surpassing beauty, and much coveted by the nobility and gentry of these kingdoms.

Long before these elegant extracts from the biography of a gentleman were concluded, Mr. Mivins had betaken himself to bed, and had set in snoring for the night, leaving the timid stranger and Mr. Pickwick to the full benefit of Mr. Smangle's experiences.

Nor were the two last-named gentlemen as much edified as they might have been by the moving passages narrated. Mr. Pickwick had been in a state of slumber for some time, when he had a faint perception of the drunken man bursting out afresh with the comic song, and receiving from Mr. Smangle a gentle intimation, through the medium of the water-jug, that his audience was not musically disposed. Mr. Pickwick then once again dropped off to sleep, with a confused consciousness that Mr. Smangle was still engaged in relating a long story, the chief point of which appeared to be that, on some occasion particularly stated and set forth, he had 'done' a bill and a gentleman at the same time.

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