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The Pickwick Papers 185







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young ladies who wouldnt come over the stile while he looked--or who, having pretty feet and unexceptionable ankles, preferred standing on the top rail for five minutes or so, declaring that they were too frightened to move--with as much ease and absence of reserve or constraint, as if he had known them for life. It is worthy of remark, too, that Mr. Snodgrass offered Emily far more assistance than the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full three feet high, and had only a couple of stepping-stones) would seem to require; while one black-eyed young lady in a very nice little pair of boots with fur round the top, was observed to scream very loudly, when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over. All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficulties of the stile were at last surmounted, and they once more entered on the open field, old Wardle informed Mr. Pickwick how they had all been down in a body to inspect the furniture and fittings- up of the house, which the young couple were to tenant, after the Christmas holidays; at which communication Bella and Trundle both coloured up, as red as the fat boy after the taproom fire; and the young lady with the black eyes and the fur round the boots, whispered something in Emilys ear, and then glanced archly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emily responded that she was a foolish girl, but turned very red, notwithstanding; and Mr. Snodgrass, who was as modest as all great geniuses usually are, felt the crimson rising to the crown of his head, and devoutly wished, in the inmost recesses of his own heart, that the young lady aforesaid, with her black eyes, and her archness, and her boots with the fur round the top, were all comfortably deposited in the adjacent county. But if they were social and happy outside the house, what was the warmth and cordiality of their reception when they reached the farm! The very servants grinned with pleasure at sight of Mr. Pickwick; and Emma bestowed a half-demure, half-impudent, and all-pretty look of recognition, on Mr. Tupman, which was enough to make the statue of Bonaparte in the passage, unfold his arms, and clasp her within them. The old lady was seated with customary state in the front parlour, but she was rather cross, and, by consequence, most particularly deaf. She never went out herself, and like a great many other old ladies of the same stamp, she was apt to consider it an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty of doing what she couldnt. So, bless her old soul, she sat as upright as she could, in her great chair, and looked as fierce as might be --and that was benevolent after all. Mother, said Wardle, Mr. Pickwick. You recollect him? Never mind, replied the old lady, with great dignity. Dont trouble Mr. Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody cares about me now, and its very natral they shouldnt. Here the old lady tossed her head, and smoothed down her lavender-coloured silk dress with trembling hands. Come, come, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, I cant let you cut an old friend in this way. I have come down expressly to have a long talk, and another rubber with you; and well show these boys and girls how to dance a minuet, before theyre eight-and- forty hours older. The old lady was rapidly giving way, but she did not like to do it all at once; so she only said, Ah! I cant hear him! Nonsense, mother, said Wardle. Come, come, dont be cross, theres a good soul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keep her spirits up, poor girl. The good old lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her son said it. But age has its little infirmities of temper, and she was not quite brought round yet. So, she smoothed down the lavender-coloured dress again, and turning to Mr. Pickwick said, Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very different, when I was a girl. No doubt of that, maam, said Mr. Pickwick, and thats the reason why I would make much of the few that have any traces of the old stock--and saying this, Mr. Pickwick gently pulled Bella towards him, and bestowing a kiss upon her forehead, bade her sit down on the little stool at her grandmothers feet. Whether the expression of her countenance, as it was raised towards the old ladys face, called up

The Pickwick Papers page 184        The Pickwick Papers page 186