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The Pickwick Papers 12







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The Pickwick Papers

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with the profound astonishment with which he had heard this address. His first impression was that his coat had been stolen. Will you allow me to detain you one moment? said he. Certainly, replied the unwelcome visitor. Mr. Winkle ran hastily upstairs, and with a trembling hand opened the bag. There was the coat in its usual place, but exhibiting, on a close inspection, evident tokens of having been worn on the preceding night. It must be so, said Mr. Winkle, letting the coat fall from his hands. I took too much wine after dinner, and have a very vague recollection of walking about the streets, and smoking a cigar afterwards. The fact is, I was very drunk;--I must have changed my coat--gone somewhere--and insulted somebody--I have no doubt of it; and this message is the terrible consequence. Saying which, Mr. Winkle retraced his steps in the direction of the coffee-room, with the gloomy and dreadful resolve of accepting the challenge of the warlike Doctor Slammer, and abiding by the worst consequences that might ensue. To this determination Mr. Winkle was urged by a variety of considerations, the first of which was his reputation with the club. He had always been looked up to as a high authority on all matters of amusement and dexterity, whether offensive, defensive, or inoffensive; and if, on this very first occasion of being put to the test, he shrunk back from the trial, beneath his leaders eye, his name and standing were lost for ever. Besides, he remembered to have heard it frequently surmised by the uninitiated in such matters that by an understood arrangement between the seconds, the pistols were seldom loaded with ball; and, furthermore, he reflected that if he applied to Mr. Snodgrass to act as his second, and depicted the danger in glowing terms, that gentleman might possibly communicate the intelligence to Mr. Pickwick, who would certainly lose no time in transmitting it to the local authorities, and thus prevent the killing or maiming of his follower. Such were his thoughts when he returned to the coffee-room, and intimated his intention of accepting the doctors challenge. Will you refer me to a friend, to arrange the time and place of meeting? said the officer. Quite unnecessary, replied Mr. Winkle; name them to me, and I can procure the attendance of a friend afterwards. Shall we say--sunset this evening? inquired the officer, in a careless tone. Very good, replied Mr. Winkle, thinking in his heart it was very bad. You know Fort Pitt? Yes; I saw it yesterday. If you will take the trouble to turn into the field which borders the trench, take the foot-path to the left when you arrive at an angle of the fortification, and keep straight on, till you see me, I will precede you to a secluded place, where the affair can be conducted without fear of interruption. Fear of interruption! thought Mr. Winkle. Nothing more to arrange, I think, said the officer. I am not aware of anything more, replied Mr. Winkle. Good-morning. Good-morning; and the officer whistled a lively air as he strode away. That mornings breakfast passed heavily off. Mr. Tupman was not in a condition to rise, after the unwonted dissipation of the previous night; Mr. Snodgrass appeared to labour under a poetical depression of spirits; and even Mr. Pickwick evinced an unusual attachment to silence and soda-water. Mr. Winkle eagerly watched his opportunity: it was not long wanting. Mr. Snodgrass proposed a visit to the castle, and as Mr. Winkle was the only other member of the party disposed to walk, they went out together. Snodgrass, said Mr. Winkle, when they had turned out of the public street. Snodgrass, my dear fellow, can I rely upon your secrecy? As he said this, he most devoutly and earnestly hoped he could not. You can, replied Mr. Snodgrass. Hear me swear-- No, no, interrupted Winkle, terrified at the idea of his companions unconsciously pledging himself not to give information; dont swear, dont swear; its quite unnecessary. Mr. Snodgrass dropped the hand which he had, in the spirit of poesy, raised towards the clouds as he made the above appeal, and assumed an attitude of attention. I want your assistance, my dear fellow, in an affair of honour, said Mr. Winkle. You shall have it, replied Mr. Snodgrass, clasping his friends hand. With a doctor--Doctor Slammer, of the 97th, said Mr. Winkle, wishing to make the matter appear as solemn as possible; an affair with an officer, seconded by another officer, at sunset this evening, in a lonely field beyond Fort Pitt. I

The Pickwick Papers page 11        The Pickwick Papers page 13