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The Pickwick Papers 272







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up, and Mr. Pickwick holding on fast by the top of the wall, while Mr. Winkle clasped him tight by the legs, they contrived by these means to bring his spectacles just above the level of the coping. My dear, said Mr. Pickwick, looking over the wall, and catching sight of Arabella, on the other side, dont be frightened, my dear, its only me. Oh, pray go away, Mr. Pickwick, said Arabella. Tell them all to go away. I am so dreadfully frightened. Dear, dear Mr. Pickwick, dont stop there. Youll fall down and kill yourself, I know you will. Now, pray dont alarm yourself, my dear, said Mr. Pickwick soothingly. There is not the least cause for fear, I assure you. Stand firm, Sam, said Mr. Pickwick, looking down. All right, sir, replied Mr. Weller. Dont be longer than you can conweniently help, sir. Youre rayther heavy. Only another moment, Sam, replied Mr. Pickwick. I merely wished you to know, my dear, that I should not have allowed my young friend to see you in this clandestine way, if the situation in which you are placed had left him any alternative; and, lest the impropriety of this step should cause you any uneasiness, my love, it may be a satisfaction to you, to know that I am present. Thats all, my dear. Indeed, Mr. Pickwick, I am very much obliged to you for your kindness and consideration, replied Arabella, drying her tears with her handkerchief. She would probably have said much more, had not Mr. Pickwicks head disappeared with great swiftness, in consequence of a false step on Sams shoulder which brought him suddenly to the ground. He was up again in an instant however; and bidding Mr. Winkle make haste and get the interview over, ran out into the lane to keep watch, with all the courage and ardour of youth. Mr. Winkle himself, inspired by the occasion, was on the wall in a moment, merely pausing to request Sam to be careful of his master. Ill take care on him, sir, replied Sam. Leave him to me. Where is he? Whats he doing, Sam? inquired Mr. Winkle. Bless his old gaiters, rejoined Sam, looking out at the garden door. Hes a-keepin guard in the lane vith that ere dark lantern, like a amiable Guy Fawkes! I never see such a fine creetur in my days. Blessed if I dont think his heart must ha been born five- and-twenty year arter his body, at least! Mr. Winkle stayed not to hear the encomium upon his friend. He had dropped from the wall; thrown himself at Arabellas feet; and by this time was pleading the sincerity of his passion with an eloquence worthy even of Mr. Pickwick himself. While these things were going on in the open air, an elderly gentleman of scientific attainments was seated in his library, two or three houses off, writing a philosophical treatise, and ever and anon moistening his clay and his labours with a glass of claret from a venerable-looking bottle which stood by his side. In the agonies of composition, the elderly gentleman looked sometimes at the carpet, sometimes at the ceiling, and sometimes at the wall; and when neither carpet, ceiling, nor wall afforded the requisite degree of inspiration, he looked out of the window. In one of these pauses of invention, the scientific gentleman was gazing abstractedly on the thick darkness outside, when he was very much surprised by observing a most brilliant light glide through the air, at a short distance above the ground, and almost instantaneously vanish. After a short time the phenomenon was repeated, not once or twice, but several times; at last the scientific gentleman, laying down his pen, began to consider to what natural causes these appearances were to be assigned. They were not meteors; they were too low. They were not glow-worms; they were too high. They were not will-o-the- wisps; they were not fireflies; they were not fireworks. What could they be? Some extraordinary and wonderful phenomenon of nature, which no philosopher had ever seen before; something which it had been reserved for him alone to discover, and which he should immortalise his name by chronicling for the benefit of posterity. Full of this idea, the scientific gentleman seized his pen again, and committed to paper sundry notes of these unparalleled appearances, with the date, day, hour, minute, and precise second at which they were visible: all of which were to form the

The Pickwick Papers page 271        The Pickwick Papers page 273