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The Pickwick Papers 212







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in High Street, and had returned home preceding the bearer thereof, to preclude the possibility of their delivery at the wrong house. The punch was ready-made in a red pan in the bedroom; a little table, covered with a green baize cloth, had been borrowed from the parlour, to play at cards on; and the glasses of the establishment, together with those which had been borrowed for the occasion from the public-house, were all drawn up in a tray, which was deposited on the landing outside the door. Notwithstanding the highly satisfactory nature of all these arrangements, there was a cloud on the countenance of Mr. Bob Sawyer, as he sat by the fireside. There was a sympathising expression, too, in the features of Mr. Ben Allen, as he gazed intently on the coals, and a tone of melancholy in his voice, as he said, after a long silence-- Well, it is unlucky she should have taken it in her head to turn sour, just on this occasion. She might at least have waited till to-morrow. Thats her malevolence--thats her malevolence, returned Mr. Bob Sawyer vehemently. She says that if I can afford to give a party I ought to be able to pay her confounded "little bill." How long has it been running? inquired Mr. Ben Allen. A bill, by the bye, is the most extraordinary locomotive engine that the genius of man ever produced. It would keep on running during the longest lifetime, without ever once stopping of its own accord. Only a quarter, and a month or so, replied Mr. Bob Sawyer. Ben Allen coughed hopelessly, and directed a searching look between the two top bars of the stove. Itll be a deuced unpleasant thing if she takes it into her head to let out, when those fellows are here, wont it? said Mr. Ben Allen at length. Horrible, replied Bob Sawyer, horrible. A low tap was heard at the room door. Mr. Bob Sawyer looked expressively at his friend, and bade the tapper come in; whereupon a dirty, slipshod girl in black cotton stockings, who might have passed for the neglected daughter of a superannuated dustman in very reduced circumstances, thrust in her head, and said-- Please, Mister Sawyer, Missis Raddle wants to speak to you. Before Mr. Bob Sawyer could return any answer, the girl suddenly disappeared with a jerk, as if somebody had given her a violent pull behind; this mysterious exit was no sooner accomplished, than there was another tap at the door--a smart, pointed tap, which seemed to say, Here I am, and in Im coming. Mr, Bob Sawyer glanced at his friend with a look of abject apprehension, and once more cried, Come in. The permission was not at all necessary, for, before Mr. Bob Sawyer had uttered the words, a little, fierce woman bounced into the room, all in a tremble with passion, and pale with rage. Now, Mr. Sawyer, said the little, fierce woman, trying to appear very calm, if youll have the kindness to settle that little bill of mine Ill thank you, because Ive got my rent to pay this afternoon, and my landlords a-waiting below now. Here the little woman rubbed her hands, and looked steadily over Mr. Bob Sawyers head, at the wall behind him. I am very sorry to put you to any inconvenience, Mrs. Raddle, said Bob Sawyer deferentially, but-- Oh, it isnt any inconvenience, replied the little woman, with a shrill titter. I didnt want it particular before to-day; leastways, as it has to go to my landlord directly, it was as well for you to keep it as me. You promised me this afternoon, Mr. Sawyer, and every gentleman as has ever lived here, has kept his word, Sir, as of course anybody as calls himself a gentleman does. Mrs. Raddle tossed her head, bit her lips, rubbed her hands harder, and looked at the wall more steadily than ever. It was plain to see, as Mr. Bob Sawyer remarked in a style of Eastern allegory on a subsequent occasion, that she was getting the steam up. I am very sorry, Mrs. Raddle, said Bob Sawyer, with all imaginable humility, but the fact is, that I have been disappointed in the City to-day.--Extraordinary place that City. An astonishing number of men always ARE getting disappointed there. Well, Mr. Sawyer, said Mrs. Raddle, planting herself firmly on a purple cauliflower in the Kidderminster carpet, and whats that to me, Sir? I--I--have no doubt, Mrs. Raddle, said Bob Sawyer, blinking this last question, that before the middle

The Pickwick Papers page 211        The Pickwick Papers page 213