Chapters XLVII - XLIX of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
We've now reached the 17th instalment of The Pickwick Papers. 180 years ago this month as it was first published there was a General Election which was triggered after the death of King William IV (this would be the last election triggered by the death of a monarch). Once again the Whigs, led by William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne won however Robert Peel and the Conservatives closed the gap yet again: in the next election in 1841, Robert Peel would win. Elsewhere, August 1837 was a notable date as it was the year Britain saw its first black policeman John Kent (born in 1795). Finally, if you like cheese on toast this is highly significant, Lea & Perrins began making Worcestershire sauce. Quite a month, then. As for The Pickwick Papers, we left on quite a cliffhanger - Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller remain in prison, but they are now joined by Mrs. Bardell!
Is Chiefly Devoted to Matters of Business, and the Temporal Advantage of Dodson and Fogg—Mr. Winkle Reappears Under Extraordinary Circumstances—Mr. Pickwick’s Benevolence Proves Stronger than his Obstinacy.
|'Mr. Winkle returns under extraordinary|
circumstances' by Phiz.
Mr. Pickwick has been in prison since April and at last he is finally freed: he reaches an agreement with Mrs. Bardell - he will pay her solicitors fees in exchange for her dropping the charges, which were brought, as she admits, partly because she was encouraged to do so by Dodson & Fogg. Whilst this is playing out, our Mr. Winkle shows up with Arabella Allen and they have some very surprising news:
‘Miss Arabella Allen!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, rising from his chair.
‘No,’ replied Mr. Winkle, dropping on his knees. ‘Mrs. Winkle. Pardon, my dear friend, pardon!’
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses, and perhaps would not have done so, but for the corroborative testimony afforded by the smiling countenance of Perker, and the bodily presence, in the background, of Sam and the pretty housemaid; who appeared to contemplate the proceedings with the liveliest satisfaction.
‘Oh, Mr. Pickwick!’ said Arabella, in a low voice, as if alarmed at the silence. ‘Can you forgive my imprudence?’
Mr. Pickwick returned no verbal response to this appeal; but he took off his spectacles in great haste, and seizing both the young lady’s hands in his, kissed her a great number of times—perhaps a greater number than was absolutely necessary—and then, still retaining one of her hands, told Mr. Winkle he was an audacious young dog, and bade him get up. This, Mr. Winkle, who had been for some seconds scratching his nose with the brim of his hat, in a penitent manner, did; whereupon Mr. Pickwick slapped him on the back several times, and then shook hands heartily with Perker, who, not to be behind-hand in the compliments of the occasion, saluted both the bride and the pretty housemaid with right good-will, and, having wrung Mr. Winkle’s hand most cordially, wound up his demonstrations of joy by taking snuff enough to set any half-dozen men with ordinarily-constructed noses, a-sneezing for life.
‘Why, my dear girl,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘how has all this come about? Come! Sit down, and let me hear it all. How well she looks, doesn’t she, Perker?’ added Mr. Pickwick, surveying Arabella’s face with a look of as much pride and exultation, as if she had been his daughter.
‘Delightful, my dear Sir,’ replied the little man. ‘If I were not a married man myself, I should be disposed to envy you, you dog.’ Thus expressing himself, the little lawyer gave Mr. Winkle a poke in the chest, which that gentleman reciprocated; after which they both laughed very loudly, but not so loudly as Mr. Samuel Weller, who had just relieved his feelings by kissing the pretty housemaid under cover of the cupboard door.
‘I can never be grateful enough to you, Sam, I am sure,’ said Arabella, with the sweetest smile imaginable. ‘I shall not forget your exertions in the garden at Clifton.’
‘Don’t say nothin’ wotever about it, ma’am,’ replied Sam. ‘I only assisted natur, ma’am; as the doctor said to the boy’s mother, after he’d bled him to death.’
‘Mary, my dear, sit down,’ said Mr. Pickwick, cutting short these compliments. ‘Now then; how long have you been married, eh?’
Mr. Pickwick is then asked to tell Arabella's brother and Mr. Winkle's father in the hope they might take it a bit better from him!
And on that happy note, Mr. Pickwick and Sam finally leave Fleet Prison:
As Mr. Pickwick uttered this adieu, the crowd raised a loud shout. Many among them were pressing forward to shake him by the hand again, when he drew his arm through Perker’s, and hurried from the prison, far more sad and melancholy, for the moment, than when he had first entered it. Alas! how many sad and unhappy beings had he left behind!
A happy evening was that for at least one party in the George and Vulture; and light and cheerful were two of the hearts that emerged from its hospitable door next morning. The owners thereof were Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, the former of whom was speedily deposited inside a comfortable post-coach, with a little dickey behind, in which the latter mounted with great agility.
Relates How Mr. Pickwick, With the Assistance of Samuel Weller, Essayed to Soften the Heart of Mr. Benjamin Allen, and to Mollify the Wrath Of Mr. Robert Sawyer
Meanwhile in Bristol Bob Sawyer and Benjamin Allen bemoan their lack of trade and decide that Bob should marry Arabella and use her money: Allen's aunt sets them right, telling him that she's eloped. Bob is furious, believing Bent o be in on it, and it is Pickwick and Sam that stops the fight. He tells them the truth - that Arabella has married Mr. Winkle:
‘Pray hear me,’ urged Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Ben Allen fell into a chair that patients were bled in, and gave way to his pocket-handkerchief. ‘I have rendered no assistance in this matter, beyond being present at one interview between the young people which I could not prevent, and from which I conceived my presence would remove any slight colouring of impropriety that it might otherwise have had; this is the whole share I have had in the transaction, and I had no suspicion that an immediate marriage was even contemplated. Though, mind,’ added Mr. Pickwick, hastily checking himself—‘mind, I do not say I should have prevented it, if I had known that it was intended.’
‘You hear that, all of you; you hear that?’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen.
‘I hope they do,’ mildly observed Mr. Pickwick, looking round, ‘and,’ added that gentleman, his colour mounting as he spoke, ‘I hope they hear this, Sir, also. That from what has been stated to me, sir, I assert that you were by no means justified in attempting to force your sister’s inclinations as you did, and that you should rather have endeavoured by your kindness and forbearance to have supplied the place of other nearer relations whom she had never known, from a child. As regards my young friend, I must beg to add, that in every point of worldly advantage he is, at least, on an equal footing with yourself, if not on a much better one, and that unless I hear this question discussed with becoming temper and moderation, I decline hearing any more said upon the subject.’Ben agrees to speak with Mr. Winkle's father and generally calms down somewhat, and Pickwick and Sam return to the inn where they're staying and they encounter the "one-eyed bagman".
Containing the Story of the Bagman’s Uncle
|'The Ghostly Passengers in the Ghost of a Mail'|
The chapter begins,
My uncle, gentlemen,’ said the bagman, ‘was one of the merriest, pleasantest, cleverest fellows, that ever lived. I wish you had known him, gentlemen. On second thoughts, gentlemen, I don’t wish you had known him, for if you had, you would have been all, by this time, in the ordinary course of nature, if not dead, at all events so near it, as to have taken to stopping at home and giving up company, which would have deprived me of the inestimable pleasure of addressing you at this moment. Gentlemen, I wish your fathers and mothers had known my uncle. They would have been amazingly fond of him, especially your respectable mothers; I know they would. If any two of his numerous virtues predominated over the many that adorned his character, I should say they were his mixed punch and his after-supper song. Excuse my dwelling on these melancholy recollections of departed worth; you won’t see a man like my uncle every day in the week.
The uncle dozed on a mail coach and when he awoke he found it packed and ready to leave, full of passengers and parcels. Various bits of drama ensue, a couple of fights break out, and the uncle escapes with a lady on the coach, but all melts away and he finds himself in the same spot in a shell of a coach as it had been when he got in it. The chapter, and the instalment, ends -
‘Of course, my uncle knew very well that there was some mystery in the matter, and that everything had passed exactly as he used to relate it. He remained staunch to the great oath he had sworn to the beautiful young lady, refusing several eligible landladies on her account, and dying a bachelor at last. He always said what a curious thing it was that he should have found out, by such a mere accident as his clambering over the palings, that the ghosts of mail-coaches and horses, guards, coachmen, and passengers, were in the habit of making journeys regularly every night. He used to add, that he believed he was the only living person who had ever been taken as a passenger on one of these excursions. And I think he was right, gentlemen—at least I never heard of any other.’
‘I wonder what these ghosts of mail-coaches carry in their bags,’ said the landlord, who had listened to the whole story with profound attention.
‘The dead letters, of course,’ said the bagman.
‘Oh, ah! To be sure,’ rejoined the landlord. ‘I never thought of that.’And so we must wait another month to see what happens in Birmingham.