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The Pickwick Papers 151

Elisha Cuthbert Photos


Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

The very idea of exhibiting his nightcap to a lady overpowered him, but he had tied those confounded strings in a knot, and, do what he would, he couldnt get it off. The disclosure must be made. There was only one other way of doing it. He shrunk behind the curtains, and called out very loudly-- Ha-hum! That the lady started at this unexpected sound was evident, by her falling up against the rushlight shade; that she persuaded herself it must have been the effect of imagination was equally clear, for when Mr. Pickwick, under the impression that she had fainted away stone-dead with fright, ventured to peep out again, she was gazing pensively on the fire as before. Most extraordinary female this, thought Mr. Pickwick, popping in again. Ha-hum! These last sounds, so like those in which, as legends inform us, the ferocious giant Blunderbore was in the habit of expressing his opinion that it was time to lay the cloth, were too distinctly audible to be again mistaken for the workings of fancy. Gracious Heaven! said the middle-aged lady, whats that? Its-- its--only a gentleman, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, from behind the curtains. A gentleman! said the lady, with a terrific scream. Its all over! thought Mr. Pickwick. A strange man! shrieked the lady. Another instant and the house would be alarmed. Her garments rustled as she rushed towards the door. Maam, said Mr. Pickwick, thrusting out his head. in the extremity of his desperation, maam! Now, although Mr. Pickwick was not actuated by any definite object in putting out his head, it was instantaneously productive of a good effect. The lady, as we have already stated, was near the door. She must pass it, to reach the staircase, and she would most undoubtedly have done so by this time, had not the sudden apparition of Mr. Pickwicks nightcap driven her back into the remotest corner of the apartment, where she stood staring wildly at Mr. Pickwick, while Mr. Pickwick in his turn stared wildly at her. Wretch, said the lady, covering her eyes with her hands, what do you want here? Nothing, maam; nothing whatever, maam, said Mr. Pickwick earnestly. Nothing! said the lady, looking up. Nothing, maam, upon my honour, said Mr. Pickwick, nodding his head so energetically, that the tassel of his nightcap danced again. I am almost ready to sink, maam, beneath the confusion of addressing a lady in my nightcap (here the lady hastily snatched off hers), but I cant get it off, maam (here Mr. Pickwick gave it a tremendous tug, in proof of the statement). It is evident to me, maam, now, that I have mistaken this bedroom for my own. I had not been here five minutes, maam, when you suddenly entered it. If this improbable story be really true, Sir, said the lady, sobbing violently, you will leave it instantly. I will, maam, with the greatest pleasure, replied Mr. Pickwick. Instantly, sir, said the lady. Certainly, maam, interposed Mr. Pickwick, very quickly. Certainly, maam. I--I--am very sorry, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, making his appearance at the bottom of the bed, to have been the innocent occasion of this alarm and emotion; deeply sorry, maam. The lady pointed to the door. One excellent quality of Mr. Pickwicks character was beautifully displayed at this moment, under the most trying circumstances. Although he had hastily Put on his hat over his nightcap, after the manner of the old patrol; although he carried his shoes and gaiters in his hand, and his coat and waistcoat over his arm; nothing could subdue his native politeness. I am exceedingly sorry, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low. If you are, Sir, you will at once leave the room, said the lady. Immediately, maam; this instant, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, opening the door, and dropping both his shoes with a crash in so doing. I trust, maam, resumed Mr. Pickwick, gathering up his shoes, and turning round to bow again--I trust, maam, that my unblemished character, and the devoted respect I entertain for your sex, will plead as some slight excuse for this-- But before Mr. Pickwick could conclude the sentence, the lady had thrust him into the passage, and locked and bolted the door behind him. Whatever grounds of self-congratulation Mr. Pickwick might have for having escaped so quietly from his late awkward situation, his present position was by no means enviable. He was alone, in an open passage, in a strange house in the middle of the night, half dressed; it was not to be supposed that he could find his

The Pickwick Papers page 150        The Pickwick Papers page 152