—from Charles Dicken, Pickwick Papers (1836-37) Chapter 33:
While Mr. Pickwick was delivering himself of the sentiment
just recorded, Mr. Weller and the fat boy, having by their joint
endeavours cut out a slide, were exercising themselves thereupon,
in a very masterly and brilliant manner. Sam Weller, in particular,
was displaying that beautiful feat of fancy-sliding which is
currently denominated 'knocking at the cobbler's door,' and
which is achieved by skimming over the ice on one foot, and
occasionally giving a postman's knock upon it with the other. It
was a good long slide, and there was something in the motion
which Mr. Pickwick, who was very cold with standing still,
could not help envying.
'It looks a nice warm exercise that, doesn't it?' he inquired of
Wardle, when that gentleman was thoroughly out of breath, by
reason of the indefatigable manner in which he had converted his
legs into a pair of compasses, and drawn complicated problems
on the ice.
'Ah, it does, indeed,' replied Wardle. 'Do you slide?'
'I used to do so, on the gutters, when I was a boy,' replied
'Try it now,' said Wardle.
'Oh, do, please, Mr. Pickwick!' cried all the ladies.
'I should be very happy to afford you any amusement,' replied
Mr. Pickwick, 'but I haven't done such a thing these thirty years.'
'Pooh! pooh! Nonsense!' said Wardle, dragging off his skates
with the impetuosity which characterised all his proceedings. 'Here;
I'll keep you company; come along!' And away went the
good-tempered old fellow down the slide, with a rapidity which
came very close upon Mr. Weller, and beat the fat boy all to nothing.
Mr. Pickwick paused, considered, pulled off his gloves and put
them in his hat; took two or three short runs, baulked himself as
often, and at last took another run, and went slowly and gravely
down the slide, with his feet about a yard and a quarter apart,
amidst the gratified shouts of all the spectators.
'Keep the pot a-bilin', Sir!' said Sam; and down went Wardle
again, and then Mr. Pickwick, and then Sam, and then Mr.
Winkle, and then Mr. Bob Sawyer, and then the fat boy, and
then Mr. Snodgrass, following closely upon each other's heels,
and running after each other with as much eagerness as if their
future prospects in life depended on their expedition.
It was the most intensely interesting thing, to observe the
manner in which Mr. Pickwick performed his share in the
ceremony; to watch the torture of anxiety with which he viewed
the person behind, gaining upon him at the imminent hazard of
tripping him up; to see him gradually expend the painful force
he had put on at first, and turn slowly round on the slide, with his
face towards the point from which he had started; to contemplate
the playful smile which mantled on his face when he had accomplished
the distance, and the eagerness with which he turned
round when he had done so, and ran after his predecessor, his
black gaiters tripping pleasantly through the snow, and his eyes
beaming cheerfulness and gladness through his spectacles. And
when he was knocked down (which happened upon the average
every third round), it was the most invigorating sight that can
possibly be imagined, to behold him gather up his hat, gloves,
and handkerchief, with a glowing countenance, and resume his
station in the rank, with an ardour and enthusiasm that nothing
The sport was at its height, the sliding was at the quickest, the
laughter was at the loudest, when a sharp smart crack was heard.
There was a quick rush towards the bank, a wild scream from the
ladies, and a shout from Mr. Tupman. A large mass of ice
disappeared; the water bubbled up over it; Mr. Pickwick's hat,
gloves, and handkerchief were floating on the surface; and this
was all of Mr. Pickwick that anybody could see.
Dismay and anguish were depicted on every countenance; the
males turned pale, and the females fainted; Mr. Snodgrass and
Mr. Winkle grasped each other by the hand, and gazed at the
spot where their leader had gone down, with frenzied eagerness;
while Mr. Tupman, by way of rendering the promptest assistance,
and at the same time conveying to any persons who might be
within hearing, the clearest possible notion of the catastrophe,
ran off across the country at his utmost speed, screaming 'Fire!'
with all his might.
It was at this moment, when old Wardle and Sam Weller were
approaching the hole with cautious steps, and Mr. Benjamin
Allen was holding a hurried consultation with Mr. Bob Sawyer
on the advisability of bleeding the company generally, as an
improving little bit of professional practice—it was at this very
moment, that a face, head, and shoulders, emerged from beneath the
water, and disclosed the features and spectacles of Mr. Pickwick.