'Half-past nine — just the time — off at once;' said the gentleman, whom we need hardly introduce as Mr. Jingle.
'Time — for what?' said the spinster aunt coquettishly.
'Licence, dearest of angels — give notice at the church — call you mine, to-morrow' — said Mr. Jingle, and he squeezed the spinster aunt's hand.
'The licence!' said Rachael, blushing.
'The licence,' repeated Mr. Jingle —
'In hurry, post-haste for a licence, In hurry, ding dong I come back.'
'How you run on,' said Rachael.
'Run on — nothing to the hours, days, weeks, months, years, when we're united — run on — they'll fly on — bolt — mizzle — steam-engine — thousand-horse power — nothing to it.'
'Can't — can't we be married before to-morrow morning?' inquired Rachael. 'Impossible — can't be — notice at the church — leave the licence to-day — ceremony come off to-morrow.' 'I am so terrified, lest my brother should discover us!' said Rachael.
'Discover — nonsense — too much shaken by the break-down — besides — extreme caution — gave up the post-chaise — walked on — took a hackney-coach — came to the Borough — last place in the world that he'd look in — ha! ha! — capital notion that — very.'
'Don't be long,' said the spinster affectionately, as Mr. Jingle stuck the pinched-up hat on his head.
'Long away from you? — Cruel charmer;' and Mr. Jingle skipped playfully up to the spinster aunt, imprinted a chaste kiss upon her lips, and danced out of the room.
'Dear man!' said the spinster, as the door closed after him.
'Rum old girl,' said Mr. Jingle, as he walked down the passage.
It is painful to reflect upon the perfidy of our species; and we will not, therefore, pursue the thread of Mr. Jingle's meditations, as he wended his way to Doctors' Commons. It will be sufficient for our purpose to relate, that escaping the snares of the dragons in white aprons, who guard the entrance to that enchanted region, he reached the vicar-general's office in safety and having procured a highly flattering address on parchment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to his 'trusty and well-beloved Alfred Jingle and Rachael Wardle, greeting,' he carefully deposited the mystic document in his pocket, and retraced his steps in triumph to the Borough.
He was yet on his way to the White Hart, when two plump gentleman and one thin one entered the yard, and looked round in search of some authorised person of whom they could make a few inquiries. Mr. Samuel Weller happened to be at that moment engaged in burnishing a pair of painted tops, the personal property of a farmer who was refreshing himself with a slight lunch of two or three pounds of cold beef and a pot or two of porter, after the fatigues of the Borough market; and to him the thin gentleman straightway advanced.
'My friend,' said the thin gentleman.
'You're one o' the adwice gratis order,' thought Sam, 'or you wouldn't be so wery fond o' me all at once.' But he only said — 'Well, Sir.'
'My friend,' said the thin gentleman, with a conciliatory hem — 'have you got many people stopping here now? Pretty busy. Eh?'
Sam stole a look at the inquirer. He was a little high-dried man, with a dark squeezed-up face, and small, restless, black eyes, that kept winking and twinkling on each side of his little inquisitive nose, as if they were playing a perpetual game of peep-bo with that feature. He was dressed all in black, with boots as shiny as his eyes, a low white neckcloth, and a clean shirt with a frill to it. A gold watch-chain, and seals, depended from his fob. He carried his black kid gloves IN his hands, and not ON them; and as he spoke, thrust his wrists beneath his coat tails, with the air of a man who was in the habit of propounding some regular posers.
'Pretty busy, eh?' said the little man.
'Oh, wery well, Sir,' replied Sam, 'we shan't be bankrupts, and we shan't make our fort'ns. We eats our biled mutton without capers, and don't care for horse-radish ven ve can get beef.'
'Ah,' said the little man, 'you're a wag, ain't you?'
'My eldest brother was troubled with that complaint,' said Sam; 'it may be catching — I used to sleep with him.'
'This is a curious old house of yours,' said the little man, looking round him.
'If you'd sent word you was a-coming, we'd ha' had it repaired;' replied the imperturbable Sam.
The little man seemed rather baffled by these several repulses, and a short consultation took place between him and the two plump gentlemen. At its conclusion, the little man took a pinch of snuff from an oblong silver box, and was apparently on the point of renewing the conversation, when one of the plump gentlemen, who in addition to a benevolent countenance, possessed a pair of spectacles, and a pair of black gaiters, interfered —
'The fact of the matter is,' said the benevolent gentleman, 'that my friend here (pointing to the other plump gentleman) will give you half a guinea, if you'll answer one or two — '
'Now, my dear sir — my dear Sir,' said the little man, 'pray, allow me — my dear Sir, the very first principle to be observed in these cases, is this: if you place the matter in the hands of a professional man, you must in no way interfere in the progress of the business; you must repose implicit confidence in him. Really, Mr. — ' He turned to the other plump gentleman, and said, 'I forget your friend's name.'
'Pickwick,' said Mr. Wardle, for it was no other than that jolly personage.
'Ah, Pickwick — really Mr. Pickwick, my dear Sir, excuse me — I shall be happy to receive any private suggestions of yours, as AMICUS CURIAE, but you must see the impropriety of your interfering with my conduct in this case, with such an AD CAPTANDUM argument as the offer of half a guinea. Really, my dear Sir, really;' and the little man took an argumentative pinch of snuff, and looked very profound.
'My only wish, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'was to bring this very unpleasant matter to as speedy a close as possible.'
'Quite right — quite right,' said the little man.
'With which view,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'I made use of the argument which my experience of men has taught me is the most likely to succeed in any case.'
'Ay, ay,' said the little man, 'very good, very good, indeed; but you should have suggested it to me. My dear sir, I'm quite certain you cannot be ignorant of the extent of confidence which must be placed in professional men. If any authority can be necessary on such a point, my dear sir, let me refer you to the well-known case in Barnwell and — '
'Never mind George Barnwell,' interrupted Sam, who had remained a wondering listener during this short colloquy; 'everybody knows what sort of a case his was, tho' it's always been my opinion, mind you, that the young 'ooman deserved scragging a precious sight more than he did. Hows'ever, that's neither here nor there. You want me to accept of half a guinea. Wery well, I'm agreeable: I can't say no fairer than that, can I, sir?' (Mr. Pickwick smiled.) Then the next question is, what the devil do you want with me, as the man said, wen he see the ghost?'
'We want to know — ' said Mr. Wardle.
'Now, my dear sir — my dear sir,' interposed the busy little man.
Mr. Wardle shrugged his shoulders, and was silent.
'We want to know,' said the little man solemnly; 'and we ask the question of you, in order that we may not awaken apprehensions inside — we want to know who you've got in this house at present?'
'Who there is in the house!' said Sam, in whose mind the inmates were always represented by that particular article of their costume, which came under his immediate superintendence. 'There's a vooden leg in number six; there's a pair of Hessians in thirteen; there's two pair of halves in the commercial; there's these here painted tops in the snuggery inside the bar; and five more tops in the coffee-room.'
'Nothing more?' said the little man.
'Stop a bit,' replied Sam, suddenly recollecting himself. 'Yes; there's a pair of Vellingtons a good deal worn, and a pair o' lady's shoes, in number five.'
'What sort of shoes?' hastily inquired Wardle, who, together with Mr. Pickwick, had been lost in bewilderment at the singular catalogue of visitors.
'Country make,' replied Sam.
'Any maker's name?'
'It is them,' exclaimed Wardle. 'By heavens, we've found them.'
'Hush!' said Sam. 'The Vellingtons has gone to Doctors' Commons.'
'No,' said the little man.
'Yes, for a licence.'
'We're in time,' exclaimed Wardle. 'Show us the room; not a moment is to be lost.'
'Pray, my dear sir — pray,' said the little man; 'caution, caution.' He drew from his pocket a red silk purse, and looked very hard at Sam as he drew out a sovereign.
Sam grinned expressively.
'Show us into the room at once, without announcing us,' said the little man, 'and it's yours.'
Sam threw the painted tops into a corner, and led the way through a dark passage, and up a wide staircase. He paused at the end of a second passage, and held out his hand.
'Here it is,' whispered the attorney, as he deposited the money on the hand of their guide.