Tupman's waistcoat, and then danced into the road, and then back again to the pavement, and finally dashed the whole temporary supply of breath out of Mr. Winkle's body; and all in half a dozen seconds.
'Where's an officer?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Put 'em under the pump,' suggested a hot-pieman.
'You shall smart for this,' gasped Mr. Pickwick.
'Informers!' shouted the crowd.
'Come on,' cried the cabman, who had been sparring without cessation the whole time.
The mob hitherto had been passive spectators of the scene, but as the intelligence of the Pickwickians being informers was spread among them, they began to canvass with considerable vivacity the propriety of enforcing the heated pastry-vendor's proposition: and there is no saying what acts of personal aggression they might have committed, had not the affray been unexpectedly terminated by the interposition of a new-comer.
'What's the fun?' said a rather tall, thin, young man, in a green coat, emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.
'informers!' shouted the crowd again.
'We are not,' roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to any dispassionate listener, carried conviction with it. 'Ain't you, though--ain't you?' said the young man, appealing to Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by the infallible process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.
That learned man in a few hurried words explained the real state of the case.
'Come along, then,' said he of the green coat, lugging Mr. Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way. Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off--respectable gentleman--know him well--none of your nonsense--this way, sir--where's your friends?--all a mistake, I see--never mind-- accidents will happen--best regulated families--never say die-- down upon your luck--Pull him UP--Put that in his pipe--like the flavour--damned rascals.' And with a lengthened string of similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility, the stranger led the way to the traveller's waiting-room, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.
'Here, waiter!' shouted the stranger, ringing the bell with tremendous violence, 'glasses round--brandy-and-water, hot and strong, and sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, Sir? Waiter! raw beef-steak for the gentleman's eye--nothing like raw beef-steak for a bruise, sir; cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post inconvenient--damned odd standing in the open street half an hour, with your eye against a lamp-post--eh,--very good-- ha! ha!' And the stranger, without stopping to take breath, swallowed at a draught full half a pint of the reeking brandy-and- water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as if nothing uncommon had occurred.
While his three companions were busily engaged in proffering their thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to examine his costume and appearance.
He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body, and the length of his legs, gave him the appearance of being much taller. The green coat had been a smart dress garment in the days of swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorned a much shorter man than the stranger, for the soiled and faded sleeves scarcely reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely up to his chin, at the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and an old stock, without a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck.