CHAPTER LXIV. TREATS OF DIVERS LITTLE MATTERS WHICH OCCURRED IN THE FLEET, AND OF Mr. WINKLE'S MYSTERIOUS BEHAVIOUR; AND SHOWS HOW THE POOR CHANCERY PRISONER OBTAINED HIS RELEASE AT LAST
Mr. Pickwick felt a great deal too much touched by the warmth of Sam's attachment, to be able to exhibit any manifestation of anger or displeasure at the precipitate course he had adopted, in voluntarily consigning himself to a debtor's prison for an indefinite period. The only point on which he persevered in demanding an explanation, was, the name of Sam's detaining creditor; but this Mr. Weller as perseveringly withheld.
'It ain't o' no use, sir,' said Sam, again and again; 'he's a malicious, bad-disposed, vorldly-minded, spiteful, windictive creetur, with a hard heart as there ain't no soft'nin', as the wirtuous clergyman remarked of the old gen'l'm'n with the dropsy, ven he said, that upon the whole he thought he'd rayther leave his property to his vife than build a chapel vith it.'
'But consider, Sam,' Mr. Pickwick remonstrated, 'the sum is so small that it can very easily be paid; and having made up My mind that you shall stop with me, you should recollect how much more useful you would be, if you could go outside the walls.' 'Wery much obliged to you, sir,' replied Mr. Weller gravely; 'but I'd rayther not.'
'Rather not do what, Sam?'
'Wy, I'd rayther not let myself down to ask a favour o' this here unremorseful enemy.'
'But it is no favour asking him to take his money, Sam,' reasoned Mr. Pickwick.
'Beg your pardon, sir,' rejoined Sam, 'but it 'ud be a wery great favour to pay it, and he don't deserve none; that's where it is, sir.'
Here Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his nose with an air of some vexation, Mr. Weller thought it prudent to change the theme of the discourse.
'I takes my determination on principle, Sir,' remarked Sam, 'and you takes yours on the same ground; wich puts me in mind o' the man as killed his-self on principle, wich o' course you've heerd on, Sir.' Mr. Weller paused when he arrived at this point, and cast a comical look at his master out of the corners of his eyes.
'There is no "of course" in the case, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, gradually breaking into a smile, in spite of the uneasiness which Sam's obstinacy had given him. 'The fame of the gentleman in question, never reached my ears.'
'No, sir!' exclaimed Mr. Weller. 'You astonish me, Sir; he wos a clerk in a gov'ment office, sir.'
'Was he?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes, he wos, Sir,' rejoined Mr. Weller; 'and a wery pleasant gen'l'm'n too — one o' the precise and tidy sort, as puts their feet in little India-rubber fire-buckets wen it's wet weather, and never has no other bosom friends but hare-skins; he saved up his money on principle, wore a clean shirt ev'ry day on principle; never spoke to none of his relations on principle, 'fear they shou'd want to borrow money of him; and wos altogether, in fact, an uncommon agreeable character. He had his hair cut on principle vunce a fortnight, and contracted for his clothes on the economic principle — three suits a year, and send back the old uns. Being a wery reg'lar gen'l'm'n, he din'd ev'ry day at the same place, where it was one-and-nine to cut off the joint, and a wery good one-and-nine's worth he used to cut, as the landlord often said, with the tears a-tricklin' down his face, let alone the way he used to poke the fire in the vinter time, which wos a dead loss o' four-pence ha'penny a day, to say nothin' at all o' the aggrawation o' seein' him do it. So uncommon grand with it too! "POST arter the next gen'l'm'n," he sings out ev'ry day ven he comes in. "See arter the TIMES, Thomas; let me look at the MORNIN' HERALD, when it's out o' hand; don't forget to bespeak the CHRONICLE; and just bring the 'TIZER, vill you:" and then he'd set vith his eyes fixed on the clock, and rush out, just a quarter of a minit 'fore the time to waylay the boy as wos a-comin' in with the evenin' paper, which he'd read with sich intense interest and persewerance as worked the other customers up to the wery confines o' desperation and insanity, 'specially one i-rascible old gen'l'm'n as the vaiter wos always obliged to keep a sharp eye on, at sich times, fear he should be tempted to commit some rash act with the carving-knife. Vell, Sir, here he'd stop, occupyin' the best place for three hours, and never takin' nothin' arter his dinner, but sleep, and then he'd go away to a coffee-house a few streets off, and have a small pot o' coffee and four crumpets, arter wich he'd walk home to Kensington and go to bed. One night he wos took very ill; sends for a doctor; doctor comes in a green fly, with a kind o' Robinson Crusoe set o' steps, as he could let down wen he got out, and pull up arter him wen he got in, to perwent the necessity o' the coachman's gettin' down, and thereby undeceivin' the public by lettin' 'em see that it wos only a livery coat as he'd got on, and not the trousers to match. "Wot's the matter?" says the doctor. "Wery ill," says the patient. "Wot have you been a-eatin' on?" says the doctor. "Roast weal," says the patient. "Wot's the last thing you dewoured?" says the doctor. "Crumpets," says the patient. "That's it!" says the doctor. "I'll send you a box of pills directly, and don't you never take no more of 'em," he says. "No more o' wot?" says the patient — "pills?" "No; crumpets," says the doctor. "Wy?" says the patient, starting up in bed; "I've eat four crumpets, ev'ry night for fifteen year, on principle." "Well, then, you'd better leave 'em off, on principle," says the doctor. "Crumpets is NOT wholesome, Sir," says the doctor, wery fierce. "But they're so cheap," says the patient, comin' down a little, "and so wery fillin' at the price." "They'd be dear to you, at any price; dear if you wos paid to eat 'em," says the doctor. "Four crumpets a night," he says, "vill do your business in six months!" The patient looks him full in the face, and turns it over in his mind for a long time, and at last he says, "Are you sure o' that 'ere, Sir?" "I'll stake my professional reputation on it," says the doctor. "How many crumpets, at a sittin', do you think 'ud kill me off at once?" says the patient. "I don't know," says the doctor. "Do you think half-a-crown's wurth 'ud do it?" says the patient. "I think it might," says the doctor. "Three shillins' wurth 'ud be sure to do it, I s'pose?" says the patient. "Certainly," says the doctor. "Wery good," says the patient; "good-night." Next mornin' he gets up, has a fire lit, orders in three shillins' wurth o' crumpets, toasts 'em all, eats 'em all, and blows his brains out.'
'What did he do that for?' inquired Mr. Pickwick abruptly; for he was considerably startled by this tragical termination of the narrative.
'Wot did he do it for, Sir?' reiterated Sam. 'Wy, in support of his great principle that crumpets wos wholesome, and to show that he wouldn't be put out of his way for nobody!' With such like shiftings and changings of the discourse, did Mr. Weller meet his master's questioning on the night of his taking up his residence in the Fleet. Finding all gentle remonstrance useless, Mr. Pickwick at length yielded a reluctant consent to his taking lodgings by the week, of a bald-headed cobbler, who rented a small slip room in one of the upper galleries. To this humble apartment Mr. Weller moved a mattress and bedding, which he hired of Mr. Roker; and, by the time he lay down upon it at night, was as much at home as if he had been bred in the prison, and his whole family had vegetated therein for three generations.
'Do you always smoke arter you goes to bed, old cock?' inquired Mr. Weller of his landlord, when they had both retired for the night.
'Yes, I does, young bantam,' replied the cobbler.
'Will you allow me to in-quire wy you make up your bed under that 'ere deal table?' said Sam.
''Cause I was always used to a four-poster afore I came here, and I find the legs of the table answer just as well,' replied the cobbler.
'You're a character, sir,' said Sam.
'I haven't got anything of the kind belonging to me,' rejoined the cobbler, shaking his head; 'and if you want to meet with a good one, I'm afraid you'll find some difficulty in suiting yourself at this register office.'
The above short dialogue took place as Mr. Weller lay extended on his mattress at one end of the room, and the cobbler on his, at the other; the apartment being illumined by the light of a rush-candle, and the cobbler's pipe, which was glowing below the table, like a red-hot coal. The conversation, brief as it was, predisposed Mr. Weller strongly in his landlord's favour; and, raising himself on his elbow, he took a more lengthened survey of his appearance than he had yet had either time or inclination to make.
He was a sallow man — all cobblers are; and had a strong bristly beard — all cobblers have. His face was a queer, good-tempered, crooked-featured piece of workmanship, ornamented with a couple of eyes that must have worn a very joyous expression at one time, for they sparkled yet. The man was sixty, by years, and Heaven knows how old by imprisonment, so that his having any look approaching to mirth or contentment, was singular enough. He was a little man, and, being half doubled up as he lay in bed, looked about as long as he ought to have been without his legs. He had a great red pipe in his mouth, and was smoking, and staring at the rush-light, in a state of enviable placidity.
'Have you been here long?' inquired Sam, breaking the silence which had lasted for some time.
'Twelve year,' replied the cobbler, biting the end of his pipe as he spoke.
'Contempt?' inquired Sam. The cobbler nodded.
'Well, then,' said Sam, with some sternness, 'wot do you persevere in bein' obstinit for, vastin' your precious life away, in this here magnified pound? Wy don't you give in, and tell the Chancellorship that you're wery sorry for makin' his court contemptible, and you won't do so no more?'
The cobbler put his pipe in the corner of his mouth, while he smiled, and then brought it back to its old place again; but said nothing.
'Wy don't you?' said Sam, urging his question strenuously.
'Ah,' said the cobbler, 'you don't quite understand these matters. What do you suppose ruined me, now?'
'Wy,' said Sam, trimming the rush-light, 'I s'pose the beginnin' wos, that you got into debt, eh?'
'Never owed a farden,' said the cobbler; 'try again.'
'Well, perhaps,' said Sam, 'you bought houses, wich is delicate English for goin' mad; or took to buildin', wich is a medical term for bein' incurable.'
The cobbler shook his head and said, 'Try again.'
'You didn't go to law, I hope?' said Sam suspiciously.
'Never in my life,' replied the cobbler.
'The fact is, I was ruined by having money left me.'
'Come, come,' said Sam, 'that von't do. I wish some rich enemy 'ud try to vork my destruction in that 'ere vay. I'd let him.'
'Oh, I dare say you don't believe it,' said the cobbler, quietly smoking his pipe. 'I wouldn't if I was you; but it's true for all that.'
'How wos it?' inquired Sam, half induced to believe the fact already, by the look the cobbler gave him.
'Just this,' replied the cobbler; 'an old gentleman that I worked for, down in the country, and a humble relation of whose I married — she's dead, God bless her, and thank Him for it! — was seized with a fit and went off.'
'Where?' inquired Sam, who was growing sleepy after the numerous events of the day.
'How should I know where he went?' said the cobbler, speaking through his nose in an intense enjoyment of his pipe. 'He went off dead.'
'Oh, that indeed,' said Sam. 'Well?'
'Well,' said the cobbler, 'he left five thousand pound behind him.'