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The Pickwick Papers 331







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turning with a puzzled countenance to Mr. Pickwick, asked him what he was about to say, when he had been so alarmingly interrupted. We are all friends here, I presume? said Mr. Pickwick, clearing his voice, and looking towards the man of few words with the surly countenance, who drove the fly with the chubby horse. This reminded Mr. Bob Sawyer that the boy in gray was looking on, with eyes wide open, and greedy ears. The incipient chemist having been lifted up by his coat collar, and dropped outside the door, Bob Sawyer assured Mr. Pickwick that he might speak without reserve. Your sister, my dear Sir, said Mr. Pickwick, turning to Benjamin Allen, is in London; well and happy. Her happiness is no object to me, sir, said Benjamin Allen, with a flourish of the hand. Her husband IS an object to ME, Sir, said Bob Sawyer. He shall be an object to me, sir, at twelve paces, and a pretty object Ill make of him, sir--a mean-spirited scoundrel! This, as it stood, was a very pretty denunciation, and magnanimous withal; but Mr. Bob Sawyer rather weakened its effect, by winding up with some general observations concerning the punching of heads and knocking out of eyes, which were commonplace by comparison. Stay, sir, said Mr. Pickwick; before you apply those epithets to the gentleman in question, consider, dispassionately, the extent of his fault, and above all remember that he is a friend of mine. What! said Mr. Bob Sawyer. His name! cried Ben Allen. His name! Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, said Mr, Pickwick. Mr. Benjamin Allen deliberately crushed his spectacles beneath the heel of his boot, and having picked up the pieces, and put them into three separate pockets, folded his arms, bit his lips, and looked in a threatening manner at the bland features of Mr. Pickwick. Then its you, is it, Sir, who have encouraged and brought about this match? inquired Mr. Benjamin Allen at length. And its this gentlemans servant, I suppose, interrupted the old lady, who has been skulking about my house, and endeavouring to entrap my servants to conspire against their mistress.--Martin! Well? said the surly man, coming forward. Is that the young man you saw in the lane, whom you told me about, this morning? Mr. Martin, who, as it has already appeared, was a man of few words, looked at Sam Weller, nodded his head, and growled forth, Thats the man. Mr. Weller, who was never proud, gave a smile of friendly recognition as his eyes encountered those of the surly groom, and admitted in courteous terms, that he had knowed him afore. And this is the faithful creature, exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen, whom I had nearly suffocated!--Mr. Pickwick, how dare you allow your fellow to be employed in the abduction of my sister? I demand that you explain this matter, sir. Explain it, sir! cried Bob Sawyer fiercely. Its a conspiracy, said Ben Allen. A regular plant, added Mr. Bob Sawyer. A disgraceful imposition, observed the old lady. Nothing but a do, remarked Martin. Pray hear me, urged Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Ben Allen fell into a chair that patients were bled in, and gave way to his pocket- handkerchief. I have rendered no assistance in this matter, beyond being present at one interview between the young people which I could not prevent, and from which I conceived my presence would remove any slight colouring of impropriety that it might otherwise have had; this is the whole share I have had in the transaction, and I had no suspicion that an immediate marriage was even contemplated. Though, mind, added Mr. Pickwick, hastily checking himself--mind, I do not say I should have prevented it, if I had known that it was intended. You hear that, all of you; you hear that? said Mr. Benjamin Allen. I hope they do, mildly observed Mr. Pickwick, looking round, and, added that gentleman, his colour mounting as he spoke, I hope they hear this, Sir, also. That from what has been stated to me, sir, I assert that you were by no means justified in attempting to force your sisters inclinations as you did, and that you should rather have endeavoured by your kindness and forbearance to have supplied the place of other nearer relations whom she had never known, from a child. As regards my young friend, I must beg to add, that in every point of worldly advantage he is, at least, on an equal footing with yourself, if not on a much better one, and that unless I hear this question discussed with

The Pickwick Papers page 330        The Pickwick Papers page 332