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The Pickwick Papers 150







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The Pickwick Papers

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the socket as he closed the door after him. No matter, said Mr. Pickwick, I can undress myself just as well by the light of the fire. The bedsteads stood one on each side of the door; and on the inner side of each was a little path, terminating in a rush- bottomed chair, just wide enough to admit of a persons getting into or out of bed, on that side, if he or she thought proper. Having carefully drawn the curtains of his bed on the outside, Mr. Pickwick sat down on the rush-bottomed chair, and leisurely divested himself of his shoes and gaiters. He then took off and folded up his coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth, and slowly drawing on his tasselled nightcap, secured it firmly on his head, by tying beneath his chin the strings which he always had attached to that article of dress. It was at this moment that the absurdity of his recent bewilderment struck upon his mind. Throwing himself back in the rush-bottomed chair, Mr. Pickwick laughed to himself so heartily, that it would have been quite delightful to any man of well-constituted mind to have watched the smiles that expanded his amiable features as they shone forth from beneath the nightcap. It is the best idea, said Mr. Pickwick to himself, smiling till he almost cracked the nightcap strings--it is the best idea, my losing myself in this place, and wandering about these staircases, that I ever heard of. Droll, droll, very droll. Here Mr. Pickwick smiled again, a broader smile than before, and was about to continue the process of undressing, in the best possible humour, when he was suddenly stopped by a most unexpected interruption: to wit, the entrance into the room of some person with a candle, who, after locking the door, advanced to the dressing- table, and set down the light upon it. The smile that played on Mr. Pickwicks features was instantaneously lost in a look of the most unbounded and wonder- stricken surprise. The person, whoever it was, had come in so suddenly and with so little noise, that Mr. Pickwick had had no time to call out, or oppose their entrance. Who could it be? A robber? Some evil-minded person who had seen him come upstairs with a handsome watch in his hand, perhaps. What was he to do? The only way in which Mr. Pickwick could catch a glimpse of his mysterious visitor with the least danger of being seen himself, was by creeping on to the bed, and peeping out from between the curtains on the opposite side. To this manoeuvre he accordingly resorted. Keeping the curtains carefully closed with his hand, so that nothing more of him could be seen than his face and nightcap, and putting on his spectacles, he mustered up courage and looked out. Mr. Pickwick almost fainted with horror and dismay. Standing before the dressing-glass was a middle-aged lady, in yellow curl- papers, busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their back- hair. However the unconscious middle-aged lady came into that room, it was quite clear that she contemplated remaining there for the night; for she had brought a rushlight and shade with her, which, with praiseworthy precaution against fire, she had stationed in a basin on the floor, where it was glimmering away, like a gigantic lighthouse in a particularly small piece of water. Bless my soul! thought Mr. Pickwick, what a dreadful thing! Hem! said the lady; and in went Mr. Pickwicks head with automaton-like rapidity. I never met with anything so awful as this, thought poor Mr. Pickwick, the cold perspiration starting in drops upon his nightcap. Never. This is fearful. It was quite impossible to resist the urgent desire to see what was going forward. So out went Mr. Pickwicks head again. The prospect was worse than before. The middle-aged lady had finished arranging her hair; had carefully enveloped it in a muslin nightcap with a small plaited border; and was gazing pensively on the fire. This matter is growing alarming, reasoned Mr. Pickwick with himself. I cant allow things to go on in this way. By the self- possession of that lady, it is clear to me that I must have come into the wrong room. If I call out shell alarm the house; but if I remain here the consequences will be still more frightful. Mr. Pickwick, it is quite unnecessary to say, was one of the most modest and delicate-minded of mortals.

The Pickwick Papers page 149        The Pickwick Papers page 151