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The Pickwick Papers 328







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The Pickwick Papers

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she dont know what she does like, said Mr. Ben Allen contemptuously. Perhaps not, remarked Mr. Bob Sawyer. But its my opinion that she does know what she doesnt like, and thats of more importance. I wish, said Mr. Ben Allen, setting his teeth together, and speaking more like a savage warrior who fed on raw wolfs flesh which he carved with his fingers, than a peaceable young gentleman who ate minced veal with a knife and fork--I wish I knew whether any rascal really has been tampering with her, and attempting to engage her affections. I think I should assassinate him, Bob. Id put a bullet in him, if I found him out, said Mr. Sawyer, stopping in the course of a long draught of beer, and looking malignantly out of the porter pot. If that didnt do his business, Id extract it afterwards, and kill him that way. Mr. Benjamin Allen gazed abstractedly on his friend for some minutes in silence, and then said-- You have never proposed to her, point-blank, Bob? No. Because I saw it would be of no use, replied Mr. Robert Sawyer. You shall do it, before you are twenty-four hours older, retorted Ben, with desperate calmness. She shall have you, or Ill know the reason why. Ill exert my authority. Well, said Mr. Bob Sawyer, we shall see. We shall see, my friend, replied Mr. Ben Allen fiercely. He paused for a few seconds, and added in a voice broken by emotion, You have loved her from a child, my friend. You loved her when we were boys at school together, and, even then, she was wayward and slighted your young feelings. Do you recollect, with all the eagerness of a childs love, one day pressing upon her acceptance, two small caraway-seed biscuits and one sweet apple, neatly folded into a circular parcel with the leaf of a copy-book? I do, replied Bob Sawyer. She slighted that, I think? said Ben Allen. She did, rejoined Bob. She said I had kept the parcel so long in the pockets of my corduroys, that the apple was unpleasantly warm. I remember, said Mr. Allen gloomily. Upon which we ate it ourselves, in alternate bites. Bob Sawyer intimated his recollection of the circumstance last alluded to, by a melancholy frown; and the two friends remained for some time absorbed, each in his own meditations. While these observations were being exchanged between Mr. Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen; and while the boy in the gray livery, marvelling at the unwonted prolongation of the dinner, cast an anxious look, from time to time, towards the glass door, distracted by inward misgivings regarding the amount of minced veal which would be ultimately reserved for his individual cravings; there rolled soberly on through the streets of Bristol, a private fly, painted of a sad green colour, drawn by a chubby sort of brown horse, and driven by a surly-looking man with his legs dressed like the legs of a groom, and his body attired in the coat of a coachman. Such appearances are common to many vehicles belonging to, and maintained by, old ladies of economic habits; and in this vehicle sat an old lady who was its mistress and proprietor. Martin! said the old lady, calling to the surly man, out of the front window. Well? said the surly man, touching his hat to the old lady. Mr. Sawyers, said the old lady. I was going there, said the surly man. The old lady nodded the satisfaction which this proof of the surly mans foresight imparted to her feelings; and the surly man giving a smart lash to the chubby horse, they all repaired to Mr. Bob Sawyers together. Martin! said the old lady, when the fly stopped at the door of Mr. Robert Sawyer, late Nockemorf. Well? said Martin. Ask the lad to step out, and mind the horse. Im going to mind the horse myself, said Martin, laying his whip on the roof of the fly. I cant permit it, on any account, said the old lady; your testimony will be very important, and I must take you into the house with me. You must not stir from my side during the whole interview. Do you hear? I hear, replied Martin. Well; what are you stopping for? Nothing, replied Martin. So saying, the surly man leisurely descended from the wheel, on which he had been poising himself on the tops of the toes of his right foot, and having summoned the boy in the gray livery, opened the coach door, flung

The Pickwick Papers page 327        The Pickwick Papers page 329