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The Pickwick Papers 306







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finished speaking; and though the glance they exchanged was instantaneous, they seemed to understand each other. Do you know anything of this, Sam? said Mr. Pickwick sharply. No, I dont, sir, replied Mr. Weller, beginning to button with extraordinary assiduity. Are you sure, Sam? said Mr. Pickwick. Wy, sir, responded Mr. Weller; Im sure so far, that Ive never heerd anythin on the subject afore this moment. If I makes any guess about it, added Sam, looking at Mr. Winkle, I havent got any right to say what It is, fear it should be a wrong un. I have no right to make any further inquiry into the private affairs of a friend, however intimate a friend, said Mr. Pickwick, after a short silence; at present let me merely say, that I do not understand this at all. There. We have had quite enough of the subject. Thus expressing himself, Mr. Pickwick led the conversation to different topics, and Mr. Winkle gradually appeared more at ease, though still very far from being completely so. They had all so much to converse about, that the morning very quickly passed away; and when, at three oclock, Mr. Weller produced upon the little dining-table, a roast leg of mutton and an enormous meat- pie, with sundry dishes of vegetables, and pots of porter, which stood upon the chairs or the sofa bedstead, or where they could, everybody felt disposed to do justice to the meal, notwithstanding that the meat had been purchased, and dressed, and the pie made, and baked, at the prison cookery hard by. To these succeeded a bottle or two of very good wine, for which a messenger was despatched by Mr. Pickwick to the Horn Coffee-house, in Doctors Commons. The bottle or two, indeed, might be more properly described as a bottle or six, for by the time it was drunk, and tea over, the bell began to ring for strangers to withdraw. But, if Mr. Winkles behaviour had been unaccountable in the morning, it became perfectly unearthly and solemn when, under the influence of his feelings, and his share of the bottle or six, he prepared to take leave of his friend. He lingered behind, until Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had disappeared, and then fervently clenched Mr. Pickwicks hand, with an expression of face in which deep and mighty resolve was fearfully blended with the very concentrated essence of gloom. Good-night, my dear Sir! said Mr. Winkle between his set teeth. Bless you, my dear fellow! replied the warm-hearted Mr. Pickwick, as he returned the pressure of his young friends hand. Now then! cried Mr. Tupman from the gallery. Yes, yes, directly, replied Mr. Winkle. Good-night! Good-night, said Mr. Pickwick. There was another good-night, and another, and half a dozen more after that, and still Mr. Winkle had fast hold of his friends hand, and was looking into his face with the same strange expression. Is anything the matter? said Mr. Pickwick at last, when his arm was quite sore with shaking. Nothing, said Mr. Winkle. Well then, good-night, said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to disengage his hand. My friend, my benefactor, my honoured companion, murmured Mr. Winkle, catching at his wrist. Do not judge me harshly; do not, when you hear that, driven to extremity by hopeless obstacles, I-- Now then, said Mr. Tupman, reappearing at the door. Are you coming, or are we to be locked in? Yes, yes, I am ready, replied Mr. Winkle. And with a violent effort he tore himself away. As Mr. Pickwick was gazing down the passage after them in silent astonishment, Sam Weller appeared at the stair-head, and whispered for one moment in Mr. Winkles ear. Oh, certainly, depend upon me, said that gentleman aloud. Thankee, sir. You wont forget, sir? said Sam. Of course not, replied Mr. Winkle. Wish you luck, Sir, said Sam, touching his hat. I should very much liked to ha joined you, Sir; but the govnor, o course, is paramount. It is very much to your credit that you remain here, said Mr. Winkle. With these words they disappeared down the stairs. ,Very extraordinary, said Mr. Pickwick, going back into his room, and seating himself at the table in a musing attitude. What can that young man be going to do? He had sat ruminating about the matter for some time, when the voice of Roker, the turnkey, demanded whether he might come in. By all means, said Mr. Pickwick. Ive brought you a softer pillow, Sir, said Mr. Roker, instead of the temporary one you had last night. Thank you, said Mr. Pickwick. Will

The Pickwick Papers page 305        The Pickwick Papers page 307