Snodgrass; and by the united efforts of the whole company, Mr. Pickwick was forced into an arm-chair. 'Leave him alone,' said the green-coated stranger; 'brandy- and-water--jolly old gentleman--lots of pluck--swallow this-- ah!--capital stuff.' Having previously tested the virtues of a bumper, which had been mixed by the dismal man, the stranger applied the glass to Mr. Pickwick's mouth; and the remainder of its contents rapidly disappeared.

There was a short pause; the brandy-and-water had done its work; the amiable countenance of Mr. Pickwick was fast recovering its customary expression.

'They are not worth your notice,' said the dismal man.

'You are right, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'they are not. I am ashamed to have been betrayed into this warmth of feeling. Draw your chair up to the table, Sir.'

The dismal man readily complied; a circle was again formed round the table, and harmony once more prevailed. Some lingering irritability appeared to find a resting-place in Mr. Winkle's bosom, occasioned possibly by the temporary abstraction of his coat--though it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that so slight a circumstance can have excited even a passing feeling of anger in a Pickwickian's breast. With this exception, their good- humour was completely restored; and the evening concluded with the conviviality with which it had begun.

CHAPTER IV A FIELD DAY AND BIVOUAC--MORE NEW FRIENDS--AN INVITATION TO THE COUNTRY

Many authors entertain, not only a foolish, but a really dishonest objection to acknowledge the sources whence they derive much valuable information. We have no such feeling. We are merely endeavouring to discharge, in an upright manner, the responsible duties of our editorial functions; and whatever ambition we might have felt under other circumstances to lay claim to the authorship of these adventures, a regard for truth forbids us to do more than claim the merit of their judicious arrangement and impartial narration. The Pickwick papers are our New River Head; and we may be compared to the New River Company. The labours of others have raised for us an immense reservoir of important facts. We merely lay them on, and communicate them, in a clear and gentle stream, through the medium of these pages, to a world thirsting for Pickwickian knowledge.

Acting in this spirit, and resolutely proceeding on our determination to avow our obligations to the authorities we have consulted, we frankly say, that to the note-book of Mr. Snodgrass are we indebted for the particulars recorded in this and the succeeding chapter--particulars which, now that we have disburdened our consciences, we shall proceed to detail without further comment.

The whole population of Rochester and the adjoining towns rose from their beds at an early hour of the following morning, in a state of the utmost bustle and excitement. A grand review was to take place upon the lines. The manoeuvres of half a dozen regiments were to be inspected by the eagle eye of the commander-in-chief; temporary fortifications had been erected, the citadel was to be attacked and taken, and a mine was to be sprung.

Mr. Pickwick was, as our readers may have gathered from the slight extract we gave from his description of Chatham, an enthusiastic admirer of the army. Nothing could have been more delightful to him--nothing could have harmonised so well with the peculiar feeling of each of his companions--as this sight. Accordingly they were soon afoot, and walking in the direction of the scene of action, towards which crowds of people were already pouring from a variety of quarters.

The appearance of everything on the lines denoted that the approaching ceremony was one of the utmost grandeur and importance. There were sentries posted to keep the ground for the troops, and servants on the batteries keeping places for the ladies, and sergeants running to and fro, with vellum-covered books under their arms, and Colonel Bulder, in full military uniform, on horseback, galloping first to one place and then to another, and backing his horse among the people, and prancing, and curvetting, and shouting in a most alarming manner, and making himself very hoarse in the voice, and very red in the face, without any assignable cause or reason whatever.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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