'And wery gen-teel in him so to do,' said Sam.
'One of which,' continued the cobbler, 'he left to me, 'cause I married his relation, you see.'
'Wery good,' murmured Sam.
'And being surrounded by a great number of nieces and nevys, as was always quarrelling and fighting among themselves for the property, he makes me his executor, and leaves the rest to me in trust, to divide it among 'em as the will prowided.'
'Wot do you mean by leavin' it on trust?' inquired Sam, waking up a little. 'If it ain't ready-money, were's the use on it?'
'It's a law term, that's all,' said the cobbler.
'I don't think that,' said Sam, shaking his head. 'There's wery little trust at that shop. Hows'ever, go on.' 'Well,' said the cobbler, 'when I was going to take out a probate of the will, the nieces and nevys, who was desperately disappointed at not getting all the money, enters a caveat against it.' 'What's that?' inquired Sam.
'A legal instrument, which is as much as to say, it's no go,' replied the cobbler.
'I see,' said Sam, 'a sort of brother-in-law o' the have-his-carcass. Well.'
'But,' continued the cobbler, 'finding that they couldn't agree among themselves, and consequently couldn't get up a case against the will, they withdrew the caveat, and I paid all the legacies. I'd hardly done it, when one nevy brings an action to set the will aside. The case comes on, some months afterwards, afore a deaf old gentleman, in a back room somewhere down by Paul's Churchyard; and arter four counsels had taken a day a-piece to bother him regularly, he takes a week or two to consider, and read the evidence in six volumes, and then gives his judgment that how the testator was not quite right in his head, and I must pay all the money back again, and all the costs. I appealed; the case come on before three or four very sleepy gentlemen, who had heard it all before in the other court, where they're lawyers without work; the only difference being, that, there, they're called doctors, and in the other place delegates, if you understand that; and they very dutifully confirmed the decision of the old gentleman below. After that, we went into Chancery, where we are still, and where I shall always be. My lawyers have had all my thousand pound long ago; and what between the estate, as they call it, and the costs, I'm here for ten thousand, and shall stop here, till I die, mending shoes. Some gentlemen have talked of bringing it before Parliament, and I dare say would have done it, only they hadn't time to come to me, and I hadn't power to go to them, and they got tired of my long letters, and dropped the business. And this is God's truth, without one word of suppression or exaggeration, as fifty people, both in this place and out of it, very well know.'
The cobbler paused to ascertain what effect his story had produced on Sam; but finding that he had dropped asleep, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, sighed, put it down, drew the bed-clothes over his head, and went to sleep, too.
Mr. Pickwick was sitting at breakfast, alone, next morning (Sam being busily engaged in the cobbler's room, polishing his master's shoes and brushing the black gaiters) when there came a knock at the door, which, before Mr. Pickwick could cry 'Come in!' was followed by the appearance of a head of hair and a cotton-velvet cap, both of which articles of dress he had no difficulty in recognising as the personal property of Mr. Smangle.
'How are you?' said that worthy, accompanying the inquiry with a score or two of nods; 'I say — do you expect anybody this morning? Three men — devilish gentlemanly fellows — have been asking after you downstairs, and knocking at every door on the hall flight; for which they've been most infernally blown up by the collegians that had the trouble of opening 'em.'
'Dear me! How very foolish of them,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising. 'Yes; I have no doubt they are some friends whom I rather expected to see, yesterday.'
'Friends of yours!' exclaimed Smangle, seizing Mr. Pickwick by the hand. 'Say no more. Curse me, they're friends of mine from this minute, and friends of Mivins's, too. Infernal pleasant, gentlemanly dog, Mivins, isn't he?' said Smangle, with great feeling.
'I know so little of the gentleman,' said Mr. Pickwick, hesitating, 'that I — '
'I know you do,' interrupted Smangle, clasping Mr. Pickwick by the shoulder. 'You shall know him better. You'll be delighted with him. That man, Sir,' said Smangle, with a solemn countenance, 'has comic powers that would do honour to Drury Lane Theatre.'
'Has he indeed?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah, by Jove he has!' replied Smangle. 'Hear him come the four cats in the wheel-barrow — four distinct cats, sir, I pledge you my honour. Now you know that's infernal clever! Damme, you can't help liking a man, when you see these traits about him. He's only one fault — that little failing I mentioned to you, you know.'
As Mr. Smangle shook his head in a confidential and sympathising manner at this juncture, Mr. Pickwick felt that he was expected to say something, so he said, 'Ah!' and looked restlessly at the door.
'Ah!' echoed Mr. Smangle, with a long-drawn sigh. 'He's delightful company, that man is, sir. I don't know better company anywhere; but he has that one drawback. If the ghost of his grandfather, Sir, was to rise before him this minute, he'd ask him for the loan of his acceptance on an eightpenny stamp.' 'Dear me!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes,' added Mr. Smangle; 'and if he'd the power of raising him again, he would, in two months and three days from this time, to renew the bill!'
'Those are very remarkable traits,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but I'm afraid that while we are talking here, my friends may be in a state of great perplexity at not finding me.'
'I'll show 'em the way,' said Smangle, making for the door. 'Good-day. I won't disturb you while they're here, you know. By the bye — '
As Smangle pronounced the last three words, he stopped suddenly, reclosed the door which he had opened, and, walking softly back to Mr. Pickwick, stepped close up to him on tiptoe, and said, in a very soft whisper —
'You couldn't make it convenient to lend me half-a-crown till the latter end of next week, could you?'
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely forbear smiling, but managing to preserve his gravity, he drew forth the coin, and placed it in Mr. Smangle's palm; upon which, that gentleman, with many nods and winks, implying profound mystery, disappeared in quest of the three strangers, with whom he presently returned; and having coughed thrice, and nodded as many times, as an assurance to Mr. Pickwick that he would not forget to pay, he shook hands all round, in an engaging manner, and at length took himself off.
'My dear friends,' said Mr. Pickwick, shaking hands alternately with Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, who were the three visitors in question, 'I am delighted to see you.'
The triumvirate were much affected. Mr. Tupman shook his head deploringly, Mr. Snodgrass drew forth his handkerchief, with undisguised emotion; and Mr. Winkle retired to the window, and sniffed aloud.
'Mornin', gen'l'm'n,' said Sam, entering at the moment with the shoes and gaiters. 'Avay vith melincholly, as the little boy said ven his schoolmissus died. Velcome to the college, gen'l'm'n.'
'This foolish fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, tapping Sam on the head as he knelt down to button up his master's gaiters — 'this foolish fellow has got himself arrested, in order to be near me.'
'What!' exclaimed the three friends.
'Yes, gen'l'm'n,' said Sam, 'I'm a — stand steady, sir, if you please — I'm a prisoner, gen'l'm'n. Con-fined, as the lady said.'
'A prisoner!' exclaimed Mr. Winkle, with unaccountable vehemence.
'Hollo, sir!' responded Sam, looking up. 'Wot's the matter, Sir?'
'I had hoped, Sam, that — Nothing, nothing,' said Mr. Winkle precipitately.
There was something so very abrupt and unsettled in Mr. Winkle's manner, that Mr. Pickwick involuntarily looked at his two friends for an explanation.
'We don't know,' said Mr. Tupman, answering this mute appeal aloud. 'He has been much excited for two days past, and his whole demeanour very unlike what it usually is. We feared there must be something the matter, but he resolutely denies it.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Winkle, colouring beneath Mr. Pickwick's gaze; 'there is really nothing. I assure you there is nothing, my dear sir. It will be necessary for me to leave town, for a short time, on private business, and I had hoped to have prevailed upon you to allow Sam to accompany me.'
Mr. Pickwick looked more astonished than before.
'I think,' faltered Mr. Winkle, 'that Sam would have had no objection to do so; but, of course, his being a prisoner here, renders it impossible. So I must go alone.'
As Mr. Winkle said these words, Mr. Pickwick felt, with some astonishment, that Sam's fingers were trembling at the gaiters, as if he were rather surprised or startled. Sam looked up at Mr. Winkle, too, when he had finished speaking; and though the glance they exchanged was instantaneous, they seemed to understand each other.
'Do you know anything of this, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick sharply.
'No, I don't, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, beginning to button with extraordinary assiduity.
'Are you sure, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, sir,' responded Mr. Weller; 'I'm sure so far, that I've never heerd anythin' on the subject afore this moment. If I makes any guess about it,' added Sam, looking at Mr. Winkle, 'I haven't got any right to say what 'It is, fear it should be a wrong 'un.'
'I have no right to make any further inquiry into the private affairs of a friend, however intimate a friend,' said Mr. Pickwick, after a short silence; 'at present let me merely say, that I do not understand this at all. There. We have had quite enough of the subject.'
Thus expressing himself, Mr. Pickwick led the conversation to different topics, and Mr. Winkle gradually appeared more at ease, though still very far from being completely so. They had all so much to converse about, that the morning very quickly passed away; and when, at three o'clock, Mr. Weller produced upon the little dining-table, a roast leg of mutton and an enormous meat-pie, with sundry dishes of vegetables, and pots of porter, which stood upon the chairs or the sofa bedstead, or where they could, everybody felt disposed to do justice to the meal, notwithstanding that the meat had been purchased, and dressed, and the pie made, and baked, at the prison cookery hard by.