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The Pickwick Papers 262







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to deal with patients who have been afflicted in a similar manner. At this precise period of his existence, Mr. Benjamin Allen had perhaps a greater predisposition to maudlinism than he had ever known before; the cause of which malady was briefly this. He had been staying nearly three weeks with Mr. Bob Sawyer; Mr. Bob Sawyer was not remarkable for temperance, nor was Mr. Benjamin Allen for the ownership of a very strong head; the consequence was that, during the whole space of time just mentioned, Mr. Benjamin Allen had been wavering between intoxication partial, and intoxication complete. My dear friend, said Mr. Ben Allen, taking advantage of Mr. Bob Sawyers temporary absence behind the counter, whither he had retired to dispense some of the second-hand leeches, previously referred to; my dear friend, I am very miserable. Mr. Winkle professed his heartfelt regret to hear it, and begged to know whether he could do anything to alleviate the sorrows of the suffering student. Nothing, my dear boy, nothing, said Ben. You recollect Arabella, Winkle? My sister Arabella--a little girl, Winkle, with black eyes--when we were down at Wardles? I dont know whether you happened to notice her--a nice little girl, Winkle. Perhaps my features may recall her countenance to your recollection? Mr. Winkle required nothing to recall the charming Arabella to his mind; and it was rather fortunate he did not, for the features of her brother Benjamin would unquestionably have proved but an indifferent refresher to his memory. He answered, with as much calmness as he could assume, that he perfectly remembered the young lady referred to, and sincerely trusted she was in good health. Our friend Bob is a delightful fellow, Winkle, was the only reply of Mr. Ben Allen. Very, said Mr. Winkle, not much relishing this close connection of the two names. I designed em for each other; they were made for each other, sent into the world for each other, born for each other, Winkle, said Mr. Ben Allen, setting down his glass with emphasis. Theres a special destiny in the matter, my dear sir; theres only five years difference between em, and both their birthdays are in August. Mr. Winkle was too anxious to hear what was to follow to express much wonderment at this extraordinary coincidence, marvellous as it was; so Mr. Ben Allen, after a tear or two, went on to say that, notwithstanding all his esteem and respect and veneration for his friend, Arabella had unaccountably and undutifully evinced the most determined antipathy to his person. And I think, said Mr. Ben Allen, in conclusion. I think theres a prior attachment. Have you any idea who the object of it might be? asked Mr. Winkle, with great trepidation. Mr. Ben Allen seized the poker, flourished it in a warlike manner above his head, inflicted a savage blow on an imaginary skull, and wound up by saying, in a very expressive manner, that he only wished he could guess; that was all. Id show him what I thought of him, said Mr. Ben Allen. And round went the poker again, more fiercely than before. All this was, of course, very soothing to the feelings of Mr. Winkle, who remained silent for a few minutes; but at length mustered up resolution to inquire whether Miss Allen was in Kent. No, no, said Mr. Ben Allen, laying aside the poker, and looking very cunning; I didnt think Wardles exactly the place for a headstrong girl; so, as I am her natural protector and guardian, our parents being dead, I have brought her down into this part of the country to spend a few months at an old aunts, in a nice, dull, close place. I think that will cure her, my boy. If it doesnt, Ill take her abroad for a little while, and see what thatll do. Oh, the aunts is in Bristol, is it? faltered Mr. Winkle. No, no, not in Bristol, replied Mr. Ben Allen, jerking his thumb over his right shoulder; over that way--down there. But, hush, heres Bob. Not a word, my dear friend, not a word. Short as this conversation was, it roused in Mr. Winkle the highest degree of excitement and anxiety. The suspected prior attachment rankled in his heart. Could he be the object of it? Could it be for him that the fair Arabella had looked scornfully on the sprightly Bob Sawyer, or had he a successful rival? He determined to see her, cost what it might; but here an insurmountable objection presented itself, for whether the

The Pickwick Papers page 261        The Pickwick Papers page 263