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The Pickwick Papers 263







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explanatory over that way, and down there, of Mr. Ben Allen, meant three miles off, or thirty, or three hundred, he could in no wise guess. But he had no opportunity of pondering over his love just then, for Bob Sawyers return was the immediate precursor of the arrival of a meat-pie from the bakers, of which that gentleman insisted on his staying to partake. The cloth was laid by an occasional charwoman, who officiated in the capacity of Mr. Bob Sawyers housekeeper; and a third knife and fork having been borrowed from the mother of the boy in the gray livery (for Mr. Sawyers domestic arrangements were as yet conducted on a limited scale), they sat down to dinner; the beer being served up, as Mr. Sawyer remarked, in its native pewter. After dinner, Mr. Bob Sawyer ordered in the largest mortar in the shop, and proceeded to brew a reeking jorum of rum-punch therein, stirring up and amalgamating the materials with a pestle in a very creditable and apothecary-like manner. Mr. Sawyer, being a bachelor, had only one tumbler in the house, which was assigned to Mr. Winkle as a compliment to the visitor, Mr. Ben Allen being accommodated with a funnel with a cork in the narrow end, and Bob Sawyer contented himself with one of those wide-lipped crystal vessels inscribed with a variety of cabalistic characters, in which chemists are wont to measure out their liquid drugs in compounding prescriptions. These preliminaries adjusted, the punch was tasted, and pronounced excellent; and it having been arranged that Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen should be considered at liberty to fill twice to Mr. Winkles once, they started fair, with great satisfaction and good-fellowship. There was no singing, because Mr. Bob Sawyer said it wouldnt look professional; but to make amends for this deprivation there was so much talking and laughing that it might have been heard, and very likely was, at the end of the street. Which conversation materially lightened the hours and improved the mind of Mr. Bob Sawyers boy, who, instead of devoting the evening to his ordinary occupation of writing his name on the counter, and rubbing it out again, peeped through the glass door, and thus listened and looked on at the same time. The mirth of Mr. Bob Sawyer was rapidly ripening into the furious, Mr. Ben Allen was fast relapsing into the sentimental, and the punch had well-nigh disappeared altogether, when the boy hastily running in, announced that a young woman had just come over, to say that Sawyer late Nockemorf was wanted directly, a couple of streets off. This broke up the party. Mr. Bob Sawyer, understanding the message, after some twenty repetitions, tied a wet cloth round his head to sober himself, and, having partially succeeded, put on his green spectacles and issued forth. Resisting all entreaties to stay till he came back, and finding it quite impossible to engage Mr. Ben Allen in any intelligible conversation on the subject nearest his heart, or indeed on any other, Mr. Winkle took his departure, and returned to the Bush. The anxiety of his mind, and the numerous meditations which Arabella had awakened, prevented his share of the mortar of punch producing that effect upon him which it would have had under other circumstances. So, after taking a glass of soda-water and brandy at the bar, he turned into the coffee-room, dispirited rather than elevated by the occurrences of the evening. Sitting in front of the fire, with his back towards him, was a tallish gentleman in a greatcoat: the only other occupant of the room. It was rather a cool evening for the season of the year, and the gentleman drew his chair aside to afford the new-comer a sight of the fire. What were Mr. Winkles feelings when, in doing so, he disclosed to view the face and figure of the vindictive and sanguinary Dowler! Mr. Winkles first impulse was to give a violent pull at the nearest bell-handle, but that unfortunately happened to be immediately behind Mr. Dowlers head. He had made one step towards it, before he checked himself. As he did so, Mr. Dowler very hastily drew back. Mr. Winkle, Sir. Be calm. Dont strike me. I wont bear it. A blow! Never! said Mr. Dowler, looking meeker than Mr. Winkle had expected in a gentleman of his ferocity. A blow, Sir? stammered Mr. Winkle. A blow, Sir, replied Dowler. Compose your feelings. Sit down. Hear me. Sir, said Mr. Winkle, trembling from

The Pickwick Papers page 262        The Pickwick Papers page 264