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The Pickwick Papers 122







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they rise. Ha! ha! ha! roared Mr. Weller. Sam, said Mr. Pickwick, compassionating his followers confusion and embarrassment. Sir. Dont laugh. Certainly not, Sir. So, by way of indemnification, Mr. Weller contorted his features from behind the wheel-barrow, for the exclusive amusement of the boy with the leggings, who thereupon burst into a boisterous laugh, and was summarily cuffed by the long gamekeeper, who wanted a pretext for turning round, to hide his own merriment. Bravo, old fellow! said Wardle to Mr. Tupman; you fired that time, at all events. Oh, yes, replied Mr. Tupman, with conscious pride. I let it off. Well done. Youll hit something next time, if you look sharp. Very easy, aint it? Yes, its very easy, said Mr. Tupman. How it hurts ones shoulder, though. It nearly knocked me backwards. I had no idea these small firearms kicked so. Ah, said the old gentleman, smiling, youll get used to it in time. Now then--all ready--all right with the barrow there? All right, Sir, replied Mr. Weller. Come along, then. Hold hard, Sir, said Sam, raising the barrow. Aye, aye, replied Mr. Pickwick; and on they went, as briskly as need be. Keep that barrow back now, cried Wardle, when it had been hoisted over a stile into another field, and Mr. Pickwick had been deposited in it once more. All right, sir, replied Mr. Weller, pausing. Now, Winkle, said the old gentleman, follow me softly, and dont be too late this time. Never fear, said Mr. Winkle. Are they pointing? No, no; not now. Quietly now, quietly. On they crept, and very quietly they would have advanced, if Mr. Winkle, in the performance of some very intricate evolutions with his gun, had not accidentally fired, at the most critical moment, over the boys head, exactly in the very spot where the tall mans brain would have been, had he been there instead. Why, what on earth did you do that for? said old Wardle, as the birds flew unharmed away. I never saw such a gun in my life, replied poor Mr. Winkle, looking at the lock, as if that would do any good. It goes off of its own accord. It WILL do it. Will do it! echoed Wardle, with something of irritation in his manner. I wish it would kill something of its own accord. Itll do that afore long, Sir, observed the tall man, in a low, prophetic voice. What do you mean by that observation, Sir? inquired Mr. Winkle, angrily. Never mind, Sir, never mind, replied the long gamekeeper; Ive no family myself, sir; and this here boys mother will get something handsome from Sir Geoffrey, if hes killed on his land. Load again, Sir, load again. Take away his gun, cried Mr. Pickwick from the barrow, horror-stricken at the long mans dark insinuations. Take away his gun, do you hear, somebody? Nobody, however, volunteered to obey the command; and Mr. Winkle, after darting a rebellious glance at Mr. Pickwick, reloaded his gun, and proceeded onwards with the rest. We are bound, on the authority of Mr. Pickwick, to state, that Mr. Tupmans mode of proceeding evinced far more of prudence and deliberation, than that adopted by Mr. Winkle. Still, this by no means detracts from the great authority of the latter gentleman, on all matters connected with the field; because, as Mr. Pickwick beautifully observes, it has somehow or other happened, from time immemorial, that many of the best and ablest philosophers, who have been perfect lights of science in matters of theory, have been wholly unable to reduce them to practice. Mr. Tupmans process, like many of our most sublime discoveries, was extremely simple. With the quickness and penetration of a man of genius, he had at once observed that the two great points to be attained were--first, to discharge his piece without injury to himself, and, secondly, to do so, without danger to the bystanders--obviously, the best thing to do, after surmounting the difficulty of firing at all, was to shut his eyes firmly, and fire into the air. On one occasion, after performing this feat, Mr. Tupman, on opening his eyes, beheld a plump partridge in the act of falling, wounded, to the ground. He was on the point of congratulating Mr. Wardle on his invariable success, when that gentleman advanced towards him, and grasped him warmly by the hand. Tupman, said the old gentleman, you singled out that particular bird? No, said Mr. Tupman--no. You did, said Wardle. I saw you do it--I observed you pick him out--I noticed you, as you raised your piece

The Pickwick Papers page 121        The Pickwick Papers page 123