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The Pickwick Papers 160







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The Pickwick Papers

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no fresh quarrel could arise. Filled with these reflections, the middle-aged lady arrayed herself in her bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the mayors dwelling straightway. Now George Nupkins, Esquire, the principal magistrate aforesaid, was as grand a personage as the fastest walker would find out, between sunrise and sunset, on the twenty-first of June, which being, according to the almanacs, the longest day in the whole year, would naturally afford him the longest period for his search. On this particular morning, Mr. Nupkins was in a state of the utmost excitement and irritation, for there had been a rebellion in the town; all the day-scholars at the largest day- school had conspired to break the windows of an obnoxious apple-seller, and had hooted the beadle and pelted the constabulary--an elderly gentleman in top-boots, who had been called out to repress the tumult, and who had been a peace- officer, man and boy, for half a century at least. And Mr. Nupkins was sitting in his easy-chair, frowning with majesty, and boiling with rage, when a lady was announced on pressing, private, and particular business. Mr. Nupkins looked calmly terrible, and commanded that the lady should be shown in; which command, like all the mandates of emperors, and magistrates, and other great potentates of the earth, was forthwith obeyed; and Miss Witherfield, interestingly agitated, was ushered in accordingly. Muzzle! said the magistrate. Muzzle was an undersized footman, with a long body and short legs. Muzzle! Yes, your Worship. Place a chair, and leave the room. Yes, your Worship. Now, maam, will you state your business? said the magistrate. It is of a very painful kind, Sir, said Miss Witherfield. Very likely, maam, said the magistrate. Compose your feelings, maam. Here Mr. Nupkins looked benignant. And then tell me what legal business brings you here, maam. Here the magistrate triumphed over the man; and he looked stern again. It is very distressing to me, Sir, to give this information, said Miss Witherfield, but I fear a duel is going to be fought here. Here, maam? said the magistrate. Where, maam? In Ipswich. In Ipswich, maam! A duel in Ipswich! said the magistrate, perfectly aghast at the notion. Impossible, maam; nothing of the kind can be contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Bless my soul, maam, are you aware of the activity of our local magistracy? Do you happen to have heard, maam, that I rushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May last, attended by only sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of falling a sacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude, prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, maam? I dont think-- I do not think, said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, that any two men can have had the hardihood to plan such a breach of the peace, in this town. My information is, unfortunately, but too correct, said the middle-aged lady; I was present at the quarrel. Its a most extraordinary thing, said the astounded magistrate. Muzzle! Yes, your Worship. Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly. Yes, your Worship. Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily- clad clerk, of middle age, entered the room. Mr. Jinks, said the magistrate. Mr. Jinks. Sir, said Mr. Jinks. This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of an intended duel in this town. Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled a dependents smile. What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks? said the magistrate. Mr. Jinks looked serious instantly. Mr. Jinks, said the magistrate, youre a fool. Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top of his pen. You may see something very comical in this information, Sir-- but I can tell you this, Mr. Jinks, that you have very little to laugh at, said the magistrate. The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware of the fact of his having very little indeed to be merry about; and, being ordered to take the ladys information, shambled to a seat, and proceeded to write it down. This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand? said the magistrate, when the statement was finished. He is, said the middle-aged lady. And the other rioter--whats his name, Mr. Jinks? Tupman, Sir. Tupman is the second? Yes. The other principal, you say, has absconded, maam? Yes, replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough. Very well, said the magistrate. These are two cut-throats from London, who have come down here to destroy his Majestys population, thinking that at this distance from the capital, the arm of

The Pickwick Papers page 159        The Pickwick Papers page 161