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The Pickwick Papers 252







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the window of the sedan, turned hastily round, plied the knocker with all his might and main, and called frantically upon the chairman to take the chair away again. Take it away, take it away, cried Mr. Winkle. Heres somebody coming out of another house; put me into the chair. Hide me! Do something with me! All this time he was shivering with cold; and every time he raised his hand to the knocker, the wind took the dressing-gown in a most unpleasant manner. The people are coming down the crescent now. There are ladies with em; cover me up with something. Stand before me! roared Mr. Winkle. But the chairmen were too much exhausted with laughing to afford him the slightest assistance, and the ladies were every moment approaching nearer and nearer. Mr. Winkle gave a last hopeless knock; the ladies were only a few doors off. He threw away the extinguished candle, which, all this time he had held above his head, and fairly bolted into the sedan-chair where Mrs. Dowler was. Now, Mrs. Craddock had heard the knocking and the voices at last; and, only waiting to put something smarter on her head than her nightcap, ran down into the front drawing-room to make sure that it was the right party. Throwing up the window-sash as Mr. Winkle was rushing into the chair, she no sooner caught sight of what was going forward below, than she raised a vehement and dismal shriek, and implored Mr. Dowler to get up directly, for his wife was running away with another gentleman. Upon this, Mr. Dowler bounced off the bed as abruptly as an India-rubber ball, and rushing into the front room, arrived at one window just as Mr. Pickwick threw up the other, when the first object that met the gaze of both, was Mr. Winkle bolting into the sedan-chair. Watchman, shouted Dowler furiously, stop him--hold him --keep him tight--shut him in, till I come down. Ill cut his throat--give me a knife--from ear to ear, Mrs. Craddock--I will! And breaking from the shrieking landlady, and from Mr. Pickwick, the indignant husband seized a small supper-knife, and tore into the street. But Mr. Winkle didnt wait for him. He no sooner heard the horrible threat of the valorous Dowler, than he bounced out of the sedan, quite as quickly as he had bounced in, and throwing off his slippers into the road, took to his heels and tore round the crescent, hotly pursued by Dowler and the watchman. He kept ahead; the door was open as he came round the second time; he rushed in, slammed it in Dowlers face, mounted to his bedroom, locked the door, piled a wash-hand-stand, chest of drawers, and a table against it, and packed up a few necessaries ready for flight with the first ray of morning. Dowler came up to the outside of the door; avowed, through the keyhole, his steadfast determination of cutting Mr. Winkles throat next day; and, after a great confusion of voices in the drawing-room, amidst which that of Mr. Pickwick was distinctly heard endeavouring to make peace, the inmates dispersed to their several bed-chambers, and all was quiet once more. It is not unlikely that the inquiry may be made, where Mr. Weller was, all this time? We will state where he was, in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XXXVII

HONOURABLY ACCOUNTS FOR Mr. WELLERS ABSENCE, BY DESCRIBING A SOIREE TO WHICH HE WAS INVITED AND WENT; ALSO RELATES HOW HE WAS ENTRUSTED BY Mr. PICKWICK WITH A PRIVATE MISSION OF DELICACY AND IMPORTANCE

Mr. Weller, said Mrs. Craddock, upon the morning of this very eventful day, heres a letter for you. Wery odd that, said Sam; Im afeerd there must be somethin the matter, for I dont recollect any genlmn in my circle of acquaintance as is capable o writin one. Perhaps something uncommon has taken place, observed Mrs. Craddock. It must be somethin wery uncommon indeed, as could perduce a letter out o any friend o mine, replied Sam, shaking his head dubiously; nothin less than a natral conwulsion, as the young genlmn observed ven he wos took with fits. It cant be from the govner, said Sam, looking at the direction. He always prints, I know, cos he learnt writin from the large bills in the booking-offices. Its a wery strange thing now, where this here letter can ha come from. As Sam said this, he did what a great many people do when they

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