'I couldn't stand under it, sir,' said Twigger; 'it would make mashed potatoes of me, if I attempted it.'
'Pooh, pooh, Twigger!' returned the Mayor. 'I tell you I have seen it done with my own eyes, in London, and the man wasn't half such a man as you are, either.'
'I should as soon have thought of a man's wearing the case of an eight-day clock to save his linen,' said Twigger, casting a look of apprehension at the brass suit.
'It's the easiest thing in the world,' rejoined the Mayor.
'It's nothing,' said Mr. Jennings.
'When you're used to it,' added Ned.
'You do it by degrees,' said the Mayor. 'You would begin with one piece to-morrow, and two the next day, and so on, till you had got it all on. Mr. Jennings, give Twigger a glass of rum. Just try the breast-plate, Twigger. Stay; take another glass of rum first. Help me to lift it, Mr. Jennings. Stand firm, Twigger! There!--it isn't half as heavy as it looks, is it?'
Twigger was a good strong, stout fellow; so, after a great deal of staggering, he managed to keep himself up, under the breastplate, and even contrived, with the aid of another glass of rum, to walk about in it, and the gauntlets into the bargain. He made a trial of the helmet, but was not equally successful, inasmuch as he tipped over instantly,--an accident which Mr. Tulrumble clearly demonstrated to be occasioned by his not having a counteracting weight of brass on his legs.
'Now, wear that with grace and propriety on Monday next,' said Tulrumble, 'and I'll make your fortune.'
'I'll try what I can do, sir,' said Twigger.
'It must be kept a profound secret,' said Tulrumble.
'Of course, sir,' replied Twigger.
'And you must be sober,' said Tulrumble; 'perfectly sober.' Mr. Twigger at once solemnly pledged himself to be as sober as a judge, and Nicholas Tulrumble was satisfied, although, had we been Nicholas, we should certainly have exacted some promise of a more specific nature; inasmuch as, having attended the Mudfog assizes in the evening more than once, we can solemnly testify to having seen judges with very strong symptoms of dinner under their wigs. However, that's neither here nor there.
The next day, and the day following, and the day after that, Ned Twigger was securely locked up in the small cavern with the sky- light, hard at work at the armour. With every additional piece he could manage to stand upright in, he had an additional glass of rum; and at last, after many partial suffocations, he contrived to get on the whole suit, and to stagger up and down the room in it, like an intoxicated effigy from Westminster Abbey.
Never was man so delighted as Nicholas Tulrumble; never was woman so charmed as Nicholas Tulrumble's wife. Here was a sight for the common people of Mudfog! A live man in brass armour! Why, they would go wild with wonder!
The day--THE Monday--arrived.
If the morning had been made to order, it couldn't have been better adapted to the purpose. They never showed a better fog in London on Lord Mayor's day, than enwrapped the town of Mudfog on that eventful occasion. It had risen slowly and surely from the green and stagnant water with the first light of morning, until it reached a little above the lamp-post tops; and there it had stopped, with a sleepy, sluggish obstinacy, which bade defiance to the sun, who had got up very blood-shot about the eyes, as if he had been at a drinking-party over-night, and was doing his day's work with the worst possible grace. The thick damp mist hung over the town like a huge gauze curtain. All was dim and dismal. The church steeples had bidden a temporary adieu to the world below; and every object of lesser importance--houses, barns, hedges, trees, and barges--had all taken the veil.
The church-clock struck one. A cracked trumpet from the front garden of Mudfog Hall produced a feeble flourish, as if some asthmatic person had coughed into it accidentally; the gate flew open, and out came a gentleman, on a moist-sugar coloured charger, intended to represent a herald, but bearing a much stronger resemblance to a court-card on horseback.