CHAPTER XLII. ILLUSTRATIVE, LIKE THE PRECEDING ONE, OF THE OLD PROVERB, THAT ADVERSITY BRINGS A MAN ACQUAINTED WITH STRANGE BEDFELLOWS — LIKEWISE CONTAINING Mr. PICKWICK'S EXTRAORDINARY AND STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT TO Mr. SAMUEL WELLER
When Mr. Pickwick opened his eyes next morning, the first object upon which they rested was Samuel Weller, seated upon a small black portmanteau, intently regarding, apparently in a condition of profound abstraction, the stately figure of the dashing Mr. Smangle; while Mr. Smangle himself, who was already partially dressed, was seated on his bedstead, occupied in the desperately hopeless attempt of staring Mr. Weller out of countenance. We say desperately hopeless, because Sam, with a comprehensive gaze which took in Mr. Smangle's cap, feet, head, face, legs, and whiskers, all at the same time, continued to look steadily on, with every demonstration of lively satisfaction, but with no more regard to Mr. Smangle's personal sentiments on the subject than he would have displayed had he been inspecting a wooden statue, or a straw-embowelled Guy Fawkes.
'Well; will you know me again?' said Mr. Smangle, with a frown.
'I'd svear to you anyveres, Sir,' replied Sam cheerfully.
'Don't be impertinent to a gentleman, Sir,' said Mr. Smangle.
'Not on no account,' replied Sam. 'If you'll tell me wen he wakes, I'll be upon the wery best extra-super behaviour!' This observation, having a remote tendency to imply that Mr. Smangle was no gentleman, kindled his ire.
'Mivins!' said Mr. Smangle, with a passionate air.
'What's the office?' replied that gentleman from his couch.
'Who the devil is this fellow?'
''Gad,' said Mr. Mivins, looking lazily out from under the bed-clothes, 'I ought to ask YOU that. Hasn't he any business here?'
'No,' replied Mr. Smangle. 'Then knock him downstairs, and tell him not to presume to get up till I come and kick him,' rejoined Mr. Mivins; with this prompt advice that excellent gentleman again betook himself to slumber.
The conversation exhibiting these unequivocal symptoms of verging on the personal, Mr. Pickwick deemed it a fit point at which to interpose.
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Sir,' rejoined that gentleman.
'Has anything new occurred since last night?'
'Nothin' partickler, sir,' replied Sam, glancing at Mr. Smangle's whiskers; 'the late prewailance of a close and confined atmosphere has been rayther favourable to the growth of veeds, of an alarmin' and sangvinary natur; but vith that 'ere exception things is quiet enough.'
'I shall get up,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'give me some clean things.' Whatever hostile intentions Mr. Smangle might have entertained, his thoughts were speedily diverted by the unpacking of the portmanteau; the contents of which appeared to impress him at once with a most favourable opinion, not only of Mr. Pickwick, but of Sam also, who, he took an early opportunity of declaring in a tone of voice loud enough for that eccentric personage to overhear, was a regular thoroughbred original, and consequently the very man after his own heart. As to Mr. Pickwick, the affection he conceived for him knew no limits.
'Now is there anything I can do for you, my dear Sir?' said Smangle.
'Nothing that I am aware of, I am obliged to you,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'No linen that you want sent to the washerwoman's? I know a delightful washerwoman outside, that comes for my things twice a week; and, by Jove! — how devilish lucky! — this is the day she calls. Shall I put any of those little things up with mine? Don't say anything about the trouble. Confound and curse it! if one gentleman under a cloud is not to put himself a little out of the way to assist another gentleman in the same condition, what's human nature?'
Thus spake Mr. Smangle, edging himself meanwhile as near as possible to the portmanteau, and beaming forth looks of the most fervent and disinterested friendship.
'There's nothing you want to give out for the man to brush, my dear creature, is there?' resumed Smangle.
'Nothin' whatever, my fine feller,' rejoined Sam, taking the reply into his own mouth. 'P'raps if vun of us wos to brush, without troubling the man, it 'ud be more agreeable for all parties, as the schoolmaster said when the young gentleman objected to being flogged by the butler.'
'And there's nothing I can send in my little box to the washer-woman's, is there?' said Smangle, turning from Sam to Mr. Pickwick, with an air of some discomfiture.
'Nothin' whatever, Sir,' retorted Sam; 'I'm afeered the little box must be chock full o' your own as it is.'
This speech was accompanied with such a very expressive look at that particular portion of Mr. Smangle's attire, by the appearance of which the skill of laundresses in getting up gentlemen's linen is generally tested, that he was fain to turn upon his heel, and, for the present at any rate, to give up all design on Mr. Pickwick's purse and wardrobe. He accordingly retired in dudgeon to the racket-ground, where he made a light and whole-some breakfast on a couple of the cigars which had been purchased on the previous night. Mr. Mivins, who was no smoker, and whose account for small articles of chandlery had also reached down to the bottom of the slate, and been 'carried over' to the other side, remained in bed, and, in his own words, 'took it out in sleep.'
After breakfasting in a small closet attached to the coffee-room, which bore the imposing title of the Snuggery, the temporary inmate of which, in consideration of a small additional charge, had the unspeakable advantage of overhearing all the conversation in the coffee-room aforesaid; and, after despatching Mr. Weller on some necessary errands, Mr. Pickwick repaired to the lodge, to consult Mr. Roker concerning his future accommodation.
'Accommodation, eh?' said that gentleman, consulting a large book. 'Plenty of that, Mr. Pickwick. Your chummage ticket will be on twenty-seven, in the third.'
'Oh,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'My what, did you say?'
'Your chummage ticket,' replied Mr. Roker; 'you're up to that?'
'Not quite,' replied Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.
'Why,' said Mr. Roker, 'it's as plain as Salisbury. You'll have a chummage ticket upon twenty-seven in the third, and them as is in the room will be your chums.'
'Are there many of them?' inquired Mr. Pickwick dubiously.
'Three,' replied Mr. Roker.
Mr. Pickwick coughed.
'One of 'em's a parson,' said Mr. Roker, filling up a little piece of paper as he spoke; 'another's a butcher.'
'Eh?' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'A butcher,' repeated Mr. Roker, giving the nib of his pen a tap on the desk to cure it of a disinclination to mark. 'What a thorough-paced goer he used to be sure-ly! You remember Tom Martin, Neddy?' said Roker, appealing to another man in the lodge, who was paring the mud off his shoes with a five-and-twenty-bladed pocket-knife.
'I should think so,' replied the party addressed, with a strong emphasis on the personal pronoun.
'Bless my dear eyes!' said Mr. Roker, shaking his head slowly from side to side, and gazing abstractedly out of the grated windows before him, as if he were fondly recalling some peaceful scene of his early youth; 'it seems but yesterday that he whopped the coal-heaver down Fox-under-the-Hill by the wharf there. I think I can see him now, a-coming up the Strand between the two street-keepers, a little sobered by the bruising, with a patch o' winegar and brown paper over his right eyelid, and that 'ere lovely bulldog, as pinned the little boy arterwards, a-following at his heels. What a rum thing time is, ain't it, Neddy?'
The gentleman to whom these observations were addressed, who appeared of a taciturn and thoughtful cast, merely echoed the inquiry; Mr. Roker, shaking off the poetical and gloomy train of thought into which he had been betrayed, descended to the common business of life, and resumed his pen.
'Do you know what the third gentlemen is?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, not very much gratified by this description of his future associates.
'What is that Simpson, Neddy?' said Mr. Roker, turning to his companion.
'What Simpson?' said Neddy.
'Why, him in twenty-seven in the third, that this gentleman's going to be chummed on.'
'Oh, him!' replied Neddy; 'he's nothing exactly. He WAS a horse chaunter: he's a leg now.'
'Ah, so I thought,' rejoined Mr. Roker, closing the book, and placing the small piece of paper in Mr. Pickwick's hands. 'That's the ticket, sir.'
Very much perplexed by this summary disposition of this person, Mr. Pickwick walked back into the prison, revolving in his mind what he had better do. Convinced, however, that before he took any other steps it would be advisable to see, and hold personal converse with, the three gentlemen with whom it was proposed to quarter him, he made the best of his way to the third flight.
After groping about in the gallery for some time, attempting in the dim light to decipher the numbers on the different doors, he at length appealed to a pot-boy, who happened to be pursuing his morning occupation of gleaning for pewter.
'Which is twenty-seven, my good fellow?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Five doors farther on,' replied the pot-boy. 'There's the likeness of a man being hung, and smoking the while, chalked outside the door.'
Guided by this direction, Mr. Pickwick proceeded slowly along the gallery until he encountered the 'portrait of a gentleman,' above described, upon whose countenance he tapped, with the knuckle of his forefinger — gently at first, and then audibly. After repeating this process several times without effect, he ventured to open the door and peep in.
There was only one man in the room, and he was leaning out of window as far as he could without overbalancing himself, endeavouring, with great perseverance, to spit upon the crown of the hat of a personal friend on the parade below. As neither speaking, coughing, sneezing, knocking, nor any other ordinary mode of attracting attention, made this person aware of the presence of a visitor, Mr. Pickwick, after some delay, stepped up to the window, and pulled him gently by the coat tail. The individual brought in his head and shoulders with great swiftness, and surveying Mr. Pickwick from head to foot, demanded in a surly tone what the — something beginning with a capital H — he wanted.