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The Pickwick Papers 356







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The Pickwick Papers

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labour and study in behalf of the masses. I alight wet and weary; no enthusiastic crowds press forward to greet their champion; the church bells are silent; the very name elicits no responsive feeling in their torpid bosoms. It is enough, said the agitated Mr. Slurk, pacing to and fro, to curdle the ink in ones pen, and induce one to abandon their cause for ever. Did you say brandy-and-water, Sir? said the landlord, venturing a hint. Rum, said Mr. Slurk, turning fiercely upon him. Have you got a fire anywhere? We can light one directly, Sir, said the landlord. Which will throw out no heat until it is bed-time, interrupted Mr. Slurk. Is there anybody in the kitchen? Not a soul. There was a beautiful fire. Everybody had gone, and the house door was closed for the night. I will drink my rum-and-water, said Mr. Slurk, by the kitchen fire. So, gathering up his hat and newspaper, he stalked solemnly behind the landlord to that humble apartment, and throwing himself on a settle by the fireside, resumed his countenance of scorn, and began to read and drink in silent dignity. Now, some demon of discord, flying over the Saracens Head at that moment, on casting down his eyes in mere idle curiosity, happened to behold Slurk established comfortably by the kitchen fire, and Pott slightly elevated with wine in another room; upon which the malicious demon, darting down into the last-mentioned apartment with inconceivable rapidity, passed at once into the head of Mr. Bob Sawyer, and prompted him for his (the demons) own evil purpose to speak as follows:-- I say, weve let the fire out. Its uncommonly cold after the rain, isnt it? It really is, replied Mr. Pickwick, shivering. It wouldnt be a bad notion to have a cigar by the kitchen fire, would it? said Bob Sawyer, still prompted by the demon aforesaid. It would be particularly comfortable, I think, replied Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pott, what do you say? Mr. Pott yielded a ready assent; and all four travellers, each with his glass in his hand, at once betook themselves to the kitchen, with Sam Weller heading the procession to show them the way. The stranger was still reading; he looked up and started. Mr. Pott started. Whats the matter? whispered Mr. Pickwick. That reptile! replied Pott. What reptile? said Mr. Pickwick, looking about him for fear he should tread on some overgrown black beetle, or dropsical spider. That reptile, whispered Pott, catching Mr. Pickwick by the arm, and pointing towards the stranger. That reptile Slurk, of the INDEPENDENT! Perhaps we had better retire, whispered Mr. Pickwick. Never, Sir, rejoined Pott, pot-valiant in a double sense-- never. With these words, Mr. Pott took up his position on an opposite settle, and selecting one from a little bundle of newspapers, began to read against his enemy. Mr. Pott, of course read the INDEPENDENT, and Mr. Slurk, of course, read the GAZETTE; and each gentleman audibly expressed his contempt at the others compositions by bitter laughs and sarcastic sniffs; whence they proceeded to more open expressions of opinion, such as absurd, wretched, atrocity, humbug, knavery, dirt, filth, slime, ditch-water, and other critical remarks of the like nature. Both Mr. Bob Sawyer and Mr. Ben Allen had beheld these symptoms of rivalry and hatred, with a degree of delight which imparted great additional relish to the cigars at which they were puffing most vigorously. The moment they began to flag, the mischievous Mr. Bob Sawyer, addressing Slurk with great politeness, said-- Will you allow me to look at your paper, Sir, when you have quite done with it? You will find very little to repay you for your trouble in this contemptible THING, sir, replied Slurk, bestowing a Satanic frown on Pott. You shall have this presently, said Pott, looking up, pale with rage, and quivering in his speech, from the same cause. Ha! ha! you will be amused with this FELLOWS audacity. Terrible emphasis was laid upon thing and fellow; and the faces of both editors began to glow with defiance. The ribaldry of this miserable man is despicably disgusting, said Pott, pretending to address Bob Sawyer, and scowling upon Slurk. Here, Mr. Slurk laughed very heartily, and folding up the paper so as to get at a fresh column conveniently, said, that the blockhead really amused him. What an impudent blunderer this fellow is, said Pott, turning from pink to crimson. Did you ever read any of this mans foolery, Sir? inquired Slurk of Bob Sawyer. Never, replied Bob; is it very bad? Oh, shocking! shocking! rejoined Slurk. Really! Dear me, this is

The Pickwick Papers page 355        The Pickwick Papers page 357