Chapters LIII - LV of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
Here we are on the 19th instalment - the last but one! According to Goodreads we're now 98% through and I found it so excruciatingly hard to put it down and leave the final 20 pages unread when I finished this month's instalment! I can't wait for next week when November begins and I can finish, but until then - here's what happened in chapters 53 - 55.
Comprising the Final Exit of Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter, with a Great Morning of Business in Gray’s Inn Square—Concluding with a Double Knock at Mr. Perker’s Door
The chapter begins with Pickwick's unhappy task of telling Arabella that old Mr. Winkle was unhappy with the marriage of Arabella to his son, but he assures her that she still has his full support. He then leaves for the office of Mr. Perker where he arranges the release of Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter, who we see for the final time in this chapter. The matter of Arabella and Winkle is discussed, and then the dreaded Dodson and Fogg appear for payment and leave pretty quickly with Pickwick shouting abuse behind them:
‘I see that you recollect it with satisfaction,’ said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to call up a sneer for the first time in his life, and failing most signally in so doing. ‘Although I have long been anxious to tell you, in plain terms, what my opinion of you is, I should have let even this opportunity pass, in deference to my friend Perker’s wishes, but for the unwarrantable tone you have assumed, and your insolent familiarity. I say insolent familiarity, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition.
‘Take care, Sir,’ said Dodson, who, though he was the biggest man of the party, had prudently entrenched himself behind Fogg, and was speaking over his head with a very pale face. ‘Let him assault you, Mr. Fogg; don’t return it on any account.’
‘No, no, I won’t return it,’ said Fogg, falling back a little more as he spoke; to the evident relief of his partner, who by these means was gradually getting into the outer office.
‘You are,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, resuming the thread of his discourse—‘you are a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.’
‘Well,’ interposed Perker, ‘is that all?’
‘It is all summed up in that,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick; ‘they are mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.’
‘There!’ said Perker, in a most conciliatory tone. ‘My dear sirs, he has said all he has to say. Now pray go. Lowten, is that door open?’
Mr. Lowten, with a distant giggle, replied in the affirmative.
‘There, there—good-morning—good-morning—now pray, my dear sirs—Mr. Lowten, the door!’ cried the little man, pushing Dodson & Fogg, nothing loath, out of the office; ‘this way, my dear sirs—now pray don’t prolong this—Dear me—Mr. Lowten—the door, sir—why don’t you attend?’
‘If there’s law in England, sir,’ said Dodson, looking towards Mr. Pickwick, as he put on his hat, ‘you shall smart for this.’
‘You are a couple of mean—’
‘Remember, sir, you pay dearly for this,’ said Fogg.
‘—Rascally, pettifogging robbers!’ continued Mr. Pickwick, taking not the least notice of the threats that were addressed to him.
‘Robbers!’ cried Mr. Pickwick, running to the stair-head, as the two attorneys descended.
‘Robbers!’ shouted Mr. Pickwick, breaking from Lowten and Perker, and thrusting his head out of the staircase window.
When Mr. Pickwick drew in his head again, his countenance was smiling and placid; and, walking quietly back into the office, he declared that he had now removed a great weight from his mind, and that he felt perfectly comfortable and happy.
The chapter then ends with a knock on the door, and not any old knock but "a most violent and startling knocking ... it was not an ordinary double-knock, but a constant and uninterrupted succession of the loudest single raps, as if the knocker were endowed with the perpetual motion, or the person outside had forgotten to leave off." Who could it be...?
Containing Some Particulars Relative to the Double Knock, and other Matters: Among Which Certain Interesting Disclosures Relative to Mr. Snodgrass and a Young Lady are by No Means Irrelevant to this History
|'Mary and the Fat Boy' by Phiz.|
The object that presented itself to the eyes of the astonished clerk, was a boy—a wonderfully fat boy—habited as a serving lad, standing upright on the mat, with his eyes closed as if in sleep. He had never seen such a fat boy, in or out of a travelling caravan; and this, coupled with the calmness and repose of his appearance, so very different from what was reasonably to have been expected of the inflicter of such knocks, smote him with wonder.
It is Joe, the Fat Boy, who true to form falls asleep, but, when he is woken up, he explains he has brought with him Emily and Mr. Wardle, and we learn Emily is considering eloping with Snodgrass. There is a great deal of awkwardness in this chapter, but happily it ends well:
Mr. Snodgrass, who had only waited for a hearing, at once recounted how he had been placed in his then distressing predicament; how the fear of giving rise to domestic dissensions had alone prompted him to avoid Mr. Wardle on his entrance; how he merely meant to depart by another door, but, finding it locked, had been compelled to stay against his will. It was a painful situation to be placed in; but he now regretted it the less, inasmuch as it afforded him an opportunity of acknowledging, before their mutual friends, that he loved Mr. Wardle’s daughter deeply and sincerely; that he was proud to avow that the feeling was mutual; and that if thousands of miles were placed between them, or oceans rolled their waters, he could never for an instant forget those happy days, when first—et cetera, et cetera.
Having delivered himself to this effect, Mr. Snodgrass bowed again, looked into the crown of his hat, and stepped towards the door.
‘Stop!’ shouted Wardle. ‘Why, in the name of all that’s—’
‘Inflammable,’ mildly suggested Mr. Pickwick, who thought something worse was coming.
‘Well—that’s inflammable,’ said Wardle, adopting the substitute; ‘couldn’t you say all this to me in the first instance?’
‘Or confide in me?’ added Mr. Pickwick.
‘Dear, dear,’ said Arabella, taking up the defence, ‘what is the use of asking all that now, especially when you know you had set your covetous old heart on a richer son-in-law, and are so wild and fierce besides, that everybody is afraid of you, except me? Shake hands with him, and order him some dinner, for goodness gracious’ sake, for he looks half starved; and pray have your wine up at once, for you’ll not be tolerable until you have taken two bottles at least.’
The worthy old gentleman pulled Arabella’s ear, kissed her without the smallest scruple, kissed his daughter also with great affection, and shook Mr. Snodgrass warmly by the hand.
‘She is right on one point at all events,’ said the old gentleman cheerfully. ‘Ring for the wine!’
The wine came, and Perker came upstairs at the same moment. Mr. Snodgrass had dinner at a side table, and, when he had despatched it, drew his chair next Emily, without the smallest opposition on the old gentleman’s part.
The evening was excellent. Little Mr. Perker came out wonderfully, told various comic stories, and sang a serious song which was almost as funny as the anecdotes. Arabella was very charming, Mr. Wardle very jovial, Mr. Pickwick very harmonious, Mr. Ben Allen very uproarious, the lovers very silent, Mr. Winkle very talkative, and all of them very happy.
Mr. Solomon Pell, Assisted by a Select Committee of Coachmen, Arranges the Affairs of the Elder Mr. Weller
|'Weller and his friends drinking to Mr.|
Pell' by Phiz.
And now the final chapter of the 19th instalment, which I'm sorry to say contains the final illustration of The Pickwick Papers by Phiz. Here we return to the Wellers, and Tony and Sam learn that the late Mrs. Weller left a will: £200 to Sam and the rest to Tony. First they must get the will probated so they see Mr. Pell; once the will is probated they decide to invest, with Pell's help. Here they meet Wilkins Flasher:
The office of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, of the Stock Exchange, was in a first floor up a court behind the Bank of England; the house of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was at Brixton, Surrey; the horse and stanhope of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, were at an adjacent livery stable; the groom of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was on his way to the West End to deliver some game; the clerk of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, had gone to his dinner; and so Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, himself, cried, ‘Come in,’ when Mr. Pell and his companions knocked at the counting-house door.
‘Good-morning, Sir,’ said Pell, bowing obsequiously. ‘We want to make a little transfer, if you please.’
‘Oh, just come in, will you?’ said Mr. Flasher. ‘Sit down a minute; I’ll attend to you directly.’
‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Pell, ‘there’s no hurry. Take a chair, Mr. Weller.’
Mr. Weller took a chair, and Sam took a box, and the umpires took what they could get, and looked at the almanac and one or two papers which were wafered against the wall, with as much open-eyed reverence as if they had been the finest efforts of the old masters.
‘Well, I’ll bet you half a dozen of claret on it; come!’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, resuming the conversation to which Mr. Pell’s entrance had caused a momentary interruption.
This is the first of many bets Flasher offers! But, as it turns out, he is good at what he does apparently and the Wellers do well out of it:
As the elder Mr. Weller insisted on selling out his portion forthwith, they proceeded from the bank to the gate of the Stock Exchange, to which Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, after a short absence, returned with a cheque on Smith, Payne, & Smith, for five hundred and thirty pounds; that being the money to which Mr. Weller, at the market price of the day, was entitled, in consideration of the balance of the second Mrs. Weller’s funded savings. Sam’s two hundred pounds stood transferred to his name, and Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, having been paid his commission, dropped the money carelessly into his coat pocket, and lounged back to his office.
Mr. Weller was at first obstinately determined on cashing the cheque in nothing but sovereigns; but it being represented by the umpires that by so doing he must incur the expense of a small sack to carry them home in, he consented to receive the amount in five-pound notes.
‘My son,’ said Mr. Weller, as they came out of the banking-house—‘my son and me has a wery partickler engagement this arternoon, and I should like to have this here bis’ness settled out of hand, so let’s jest go straight avay someveres, vere ve can hordit the accounts.’
A quiet room was soon found, and the accounts were produced and audited. Mr. Pell’s bill was taxed by Sam, and some charges were disallowed by the umpires; but, notwithstanding Mr. Pell’s declaration, accompanied with many solemn asseverations that they were really too hard upon him, it was by very many degrees the best professional job he had ever had, and one on which he boarded, lodged, and washed, for six months afterwards.
The umpires having partaken of a dram, shook hands and departed, as they had to drive out of town that night. Mr. Solomon Pell, finding that nothing more was going forward, either in the eating or drinking way, took a friendly leave, and Sam and his father were left alone.
‘There!’ said Mr. Weller, thrusting his pocket-book in his side pocket. ‘Vith the bills for the lease, and that, there’s eleven hundred and eighty pound here. Now, Samivel, my boy, turn the horses’ heads to the George and Wulter!’
And there ends the 19th instalment! Another few weeks and our read-along, which will have taken 1 and ¾ years, will be at an end. I'm eager to finish, but it will not be without some sadness...