Pickwick; but observing that the man looked rather doubtful at this accommodating announcement, he gave him his card, and desired him to present it to Mr. Perker forthwith, if he should happen to be in the house. The waiter retired; and reappearing almost immediately with a request that Mr. Pickwick would follow him, led the way to a large room on the first floor, where, seated at a long table covered with books and papers, was Mr. Perker.
'Ah--ah, my dear Sir,' said the little man, advancing to meet him; 'very happy to see you, my dear Sir, very. Pray sit down. So you have carried your intention into effect. You have come down here to see an election--eh?' Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.
'Spirited contest, my dear sir,' said the little man.
'I'm delighted to hear it,' said Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his hands. 'I like to see sturdy patriotism, on whatever side it is called forth--and so it's a spirited contest?'
'Oh, yes,' said the little man, 'very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place, and left our adversary nothing but the beer-shops-masterly stroke of policy that, my dear Sir, eh?' The little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.
'And what are the probabilities as to the result of the contest?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Why, doubtful, my dear Sir; rather doubtful as yet,' replied the little man. 'Fizkin's people have got three-and-thirty voters in the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.'
'In the coach-house!' said Mr. Pickwick, considerably astonished by this second stroke of policy.
'They keep 'em locked up there till they want 'em,' resumed the little man. 'The effect of that is, you see, to prevent our getting at them; and even if we could, it would be of no use, for they keep them very drunk on purpose. Smart fellow Fizkin's agent--very smart fellow indeed.'
Mr. Pickwick stared, but said nothing.
'We are pretty confident, though,' said Mr. Perker, sinking his voice almost to a whisper. 'We had a little tea-party here, last night--five-and-forty women, my dear sir--and gave every one of 'em a green parasol when she went away.'
'A parasol!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at seven and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery--extraordinary the effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their brothers--beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thing hollow. My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.'
Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only checked by the entrance of a third party.
This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclined to baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blended with a look of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in a long brown surtout, with a black cloth waistcoat, and drab trousers. A double eyeglass dangled at his waistcoat; and on his head he wore a very low-crowned hat with a broad brim. The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pott, the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. After a few preliminary remarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said with solemnity--
'This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?'
'I believe it does,' said Mr. Pickwick.