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The Pickwick Papers 269







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groom had locked after him. Why, its that very house; shes been living there these six weeks. Their upper house- maid, which is ladys-maid too, told me all about it over the wash-house palins before the family was out of bed, one mornin. Wot, the wery next door to you? said Sam. The very next, replied Mary. Mr. Weller was so deeply overcome on receiving this intelligence that he found it absolutely necessary to cling to his fair informant for support; and divers little love passages had passed between them, before he was sufficiently collected to return to the subject. Vell, said Sam at length, if this dont beat cock-fightin nothin never vill, as the lord mayor said, ven the chief secretary o state proposed his mississ health arter dinner. That wery next house! Wy, Ive got a message to her as Ive been a-trying all day to deliver. Ah, said Mary, but you cant deliver it now, because she only walks in the garden in the evening, and then only for a very little time; she never goes out, without the old lady. Sam ruminated for a few moments, and finally hit upon the following plan of operations; that he should return just at dusk --the time at which Arabella invariably took her walk--and, being admitted by Mary into the garden of the house to which she belonged, would contrive to scramble up the wall, beneath the overhanging boughs of a large pear-tree, which would effectually screen him from observation; would there deliver his message, and arrange, if possible, an interview on behalf of Mr. Winkle for the ensuing evening at the same hour. Having made this arrangement with great despatch, he assisted Mary in the long-deferred occupation of shaking the carpets. It is not half as innocent a thing as it looks, that shaking little pieces of carpet--at least, there may be no great harm in the shaking, but the folding is a very insidious process. So long as the shaking lasts, and the two parties are kept the carpets length apart, it is as innocent an amusement as can well be devised; but when the folding begins, and the distance between them gets gradually lessened from one half its former length to a quarter, and then to an eighth, and then to a sixteenth, and then to a thirty-second, if the carpet be long enough, it becomes dangerous. We do not know, to a nicety, how many pieces of carpet were folded in this instance, but we can venture to state that as many pieces as there were, so many times did Sam kiss the pretty housemaid. Mr. Weller regaled himself with moderation at the nearest tavern until it was nearly dusk, and then returned to the lane without the thoroughfare. Having been admitted into the garden by Mary, and having received from that lady sundry admonitions concerning the safety of his limbs and neck, Sam mounted into the pear-tree, to wait until Arabella should come into sight. He waited so long without this anxiously-expected event occurring, that he began to think it was not going to take place at all, when he heard light footsteps upon the gravel, and immediately afterwards beheld Arabella walking pensively down the garden. As soon as she came nearly below the tree, Sam began, by way of gently indicating his presence, to make sundry diabolical noises similar to those which would probably be natural to a person of middle age who had been afflicted with a combination of inflammatory sore throat, croup, and whooping- cough, from his earliest infancy. Upon this, the young lady cast a hurried glance towards the spot whence the dreadful sounds proceeded; and her previous alarm being not at all diminished when she saw a man among the branches, she would most certainly have decamped, and alarmed the house, had not fear fortunately deprived her of the power of moving, and caused her to sink down on a garden seat, which happened by good luck to be near at hand. Shes a-goin off, soliloquised Sam in great perplexity. Wot a thing it is, as these here young creeturs will go a-faintin avay just ven they oughtnt to. Here, young ooman, Miss Sawbones, Mrs. Vinkle, dont! Whether it was the magic of Mr. Winkles name, or the coolness of the open air, or some recollection of Mr. Wellers voice, that revived Arabella, matters not. She raised her head and languidly inquired, Whos that, and what do you want? Hush, said Sam, swinging himself on to the wall, and crouching there in as

The Pickwick Papers page 268        The Pickwick Papers page 270