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The Pickwick Papers 183







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horses, with cloths on, are already waiting. The coachman throws down the reins and gets down himself, and the other outside passengers drop down also; except those who have no great confidence in their ability to get up again; and they remain where they are, and stamp their feet against the coach to warm them--looking, with longing eyes and red noses, at the bright fire in the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries which ornament the window. But the guard has delivered at the corn-dealers shop, the brown paper packet he took out of the little pouch which hangs over his shoulder by a leathern strap; and has seen the horses carefully put to; and has thrown on the pavement the saddle which was brought from London on the coach roof; and has assisted in the conference between the coachman and the hostler about the gray mare that hurt her off fore-leg last Tuesday; and he and Mr. Weller are all right behind, and the coachman is all right in front, and the old gentleman inside, who has kept the window down full two inches all this time, has pulled it up again, and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, except the two stout gentlemen, whom the coachman inquires after with some impatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard, and Sam Weller, and Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and all the hostlers, and every one of the idlers, who are more in number than all the others put together, shout for the missing gentlemen as loud as they can bawl. A distant response is heard from the yard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it, quite out of breath, for they have been having a glass of ale a-piece, and Mr. Pickwicks fingers are so cold that he has been full five minutes before he could find the sixpence to pay for it. The coachman shouts an admonitory Now then, genlmn, the guard re-echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a very extraordinary thing that people WILL get down when they know there isnt time for it; Mr. Pickwick struggles up on one side, Mr. Tupman on the other; Mr. Winkle cries All right; and off they start. Shawls are pulled up, coat collars are readjusted, the pavement ceases, the houses disappear; and they are once again dashing along the open road, with the fresh clear air blowing in their faces, and gladdening their very hearts within them. Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by the Muggleton Telegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and at three oclock that afternoon they all stood high and dry, safe and sound, hale and hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion, having taken on the road quite enough of ale and brandy, to enable them to bid defiance to the frost that was binding up the earth in its iron fetters, and weaving its beautiful network upon the trees and hedges. Mr. Pickwick was busily engaged in counting the barrels of oysters and superintending the disinterment of the cod-fish, when he felt himself gently pulled by the skirts of the coat. Looking round, he discovered that the individual who resorted to this mode of catching his attention was no other than Mr. Wardles favourite page, better known to the readers of this unvarnished history, by the distinguishing appellation of the fat boy. Aha! said Mr. Pickwick. Aha! said the fat boy. As he said it, he glanced from the cod-fish to the oyster- barrels, and chuckled joyously. He was fatter than ever. Well, you look rosy enough, my young friend, said Mr. Pickwick. Ive been asleep, right in front of the taproom fire, replied the fat boy, who had heated himself to the colour of a new chimney- pot, in the course of an hours nap. Master sent me over with the shay-cart, to carry your luggage up to the house. Hed ha sent some saddle-horses, but he thought youd rather walk, being a cold day. Yes, yes, said Mr. Pickwick hastily, for he remembered how they had travelled over nearly the same ground on a previous occasion. Yes, we would rather walk. Here, Sam! Sir, said Mr. Weller. Help Mr. Wardles servant to put the packages into the cart, and then ride on with him. We will walk forward at once. Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman, Mr. Pickwick and his three friends struck into the footpath across the fields, and

The Pickwick Papers page 182        The Pickwick Papers page 184