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The Pickwick Papers 31







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The Pickwick Papers

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eyes with his hand, and stared, long and coolly, at Mr. Pickwick and his companions. Hollo there! repeated Mr. Pickwick. Hollo! was the red-headed mans reply. How far is it to Dingley Dell? Better er seven mile. Is it a good road? No, taint. Having uttered this brief reply, and apparently satisfied himself with another scrutiny, the red-headed man resumed his work. We want to put this horse up here, said Mr. Pickwick; I suppose we can, cant we? Want to put that ere horse up, do ee? repeated the red- headed man, leaning on his spade. Of course, replied Mr. Pickwick, who had by this time advanced, horse in hand, to the garden rails. Missus--roared the man with the red head, emerging from the garden, and looking very hard at the horse--missus! A tall, bony woman--straight all the way down--in a coarse, blue pelisse, with the waist an inch or two below her arm-pits, responded to the call. Can we put this horse up here, my good woman? said Mr. Tupman, advancing, and speaking in his most seductive tones. The woman looked very hard at the whole party; and the red- headed man whispered something in her ear. No, replied the woman, after a little consideration, Im afeerd on it. Afraid! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, whats the woman afraid of ? It got us in trouble last time, said the woman, turning into the house; I woant have nothin to say to un. Most extraordinary thing I have ever met with in my life, said the astonished Mr. Pickwick. I--I--really believe, whispered Mr. Winkle, as his friends gathered round him, that they think we have come by this horse in some dishonest manner. What! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, in a storm of indignation. Mr. Winkle modestly repeated his suggestion. Hollo, you fellow, said the angry Mr. Pickwick,do you think we stole the horse? Im sure ye did, replied the red-headed man, with a grin which agitated his countenance from one auricular organ to the other. Saying which he turned into the house and banged the door after him. Its like a dream, ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, a hideous dream. The idea of a mans walking about all day with a dreadful horse that he cant get rid of! The depressed Pickwickians turned moodily away, with the tall quadruped, for which they all felt the most unmitigated disgust, following slowly at their heels. It was late in the afternoon when the four friends and their four-footed companion turned into the lane leading to Manor Farm; and even when they were so near their place of destination, the pleasure they would otherwise have experienced was materially damped as they reflected on the singularity of their appearance, and the absurdity of their situation. Torn clothes, lacerated faces, dusty shoes, exhausted looks, and, above all, the horse. Oh, how Mr. Pickwick cursed that horse: he had eyed the noble animal from time to time with looks expressive of hatred and revenge; more than once he had calculated the probable amount of the expense he would incur by cutting his throat; and now the temptation to destroy him, or to cast him loose upon the world, rushed upon his mind with tenfold force. He was roused from a meditation on these dire imaginings by the sudden appearance of two figures at a turn of the lane. It was Mr. Wardle, and his faithful attendant, the fat boy. Why, where have you been ? said the hospitable old gentleman; Ive been waiting for you all day. Well, you DO look tired. What! Scratches! Not hurt, I hope--eh? Well, I AM glad to hear that-- very. So youve been spilt, eh? Never mind. Common accident in these parts. Joe--hes asleep again!--Joe, take that horse from the gentlemen, and lead it into the stable. The fat boy sauntered heavily behind them with the animal; and the old gentleman, condoling with his guests in homely phrase on so much of the days adventures as they thought proper to communicate, led the way to the kitchen. Well have you put to rights here, said the old gentleman, and then Ill introduce you to the people in the parlour. Emma, bring out the cherry brandy; now, Jane, a needle and thread here; towels and water, Mary. Come, girls, bustle about. Three or four buxom girls speedily dispersed in search of the different articles in requisition, while a couple of large-headed, circular-visaged males rose from their seats in the chimney- corner (for although it was a May evening their attachment to the wood fire appeared as cordial as if it were Christmas),

The Pickwick Papers page 30        The Pickwick Papers page 32