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The Pickwick Papers 339







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sword from his grasp, and flung it clean out of the coach window, upon which the younger gentleman vociferated, "Death and lightning!" again, and laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword, in a very fierce manner, but didnt draw it. Perhaps, gentlemen, as my uncle used to say with a smile, perhaps he was afraid of alarming the lady. "Now, gentlemen," said my uncle, taking his seat deliberately, "I dont want to have any death, with or without lightning, in a ladys presence, and we have had quite blood and thundering enough for one journey; so, if you please, well sit in our places like quiet insides. Here, guard, pick up that gentlemans carving-knife." As quickly as my uncle said the words, the guard appeared at the coach window, with the gentlemans sword in his hand. He held up his lantern, and looked earnestly in my uncles face, as he handed it in, when, by its light, my uncle saw, to his great surprise, that an immense crowd of mail-coach guards swarmed round the window, every one of whom had his eyes earnestly fixed upon him too. He had never seen such a sea of white faces, red bodies, and earnest eyes, in all his born days. "This is the strangest sort of thing I ever had anything to do with," thought my uncle; "allow me to return you your hat, sir." The ill-looking gentleman received his three-cornered hat in silence, looked at the hole in the middle with an inquiring air, and finally stuck it on the top of his wig with a solemnity the effect of which was a trifle impaired by his sneezing violently at the moment, and jerking it off again. "All right!" cried the guard with the lantern, mounting into his little seat behind. Away they went. My uncle peeped out of the coach window as they emerged from the yard, and observed that the other mails, with coachmen, guards, horses, and passengers, complete, were driving round and round in circles, at a slow trot of about five miles an hour. My uncle burned with indignation, gentlemen. As a commercial man, he felt that the mail-bags were not to be trifled with, and he resolved to memorialise the Post Office on the subject, the very instant he reached London. At present, however, his thoughts were occupied with the young lady who sat in the farthest corner of the coach, with her face muffled closely in her hood; the gentleman with the sky-blue coat sitting opposite to her; the other man in the plum-coloured suit, by her side; and both watching her intently. If she so much as rustled the folds of her hood, he could hear the ill-looking man clap his hand upon his sword, and could tell by the others breathing (it was so dark he couldnt see his face) that he was looking as big as if he were going to devour her at a mouthful. This roused my uncle more and more, and he resolved, come what might, to see the end of it. He had a great admiration for bright eyes, and sweet faces, and pretty legs and feet; in short, he was fond of the whole sex. It runs in our family, gentleman--so am I. Many were the devices which my uncle practised, to attract the ladys attention, or at all events, to engage the mysterious gentlemen in conversation. They were all in vain; the gentlemen wouldnt talk, and the lady didnt dare. He thrust his head out of the coach window at intervals, and bawled out to know why they didnt go faster. But he called till he was hoarse; nobody paid the least attention to him. He leaned back in the coach, and thought of the beautiful face, and the feet and legs. This answered better; it whiled away the time, and kept him from wondering where he was going, and how it was that he found himself in such an odd situation. Not that this would have worried him much, anyway --he was a mighty free and easy, roving, devil-may-care sort of person, was my uncle, gentlemen. All of a sudden the coach stopped. "Hollo!" said my uncle, "whats in the wind now?" "Alight here," said the guard, letting down the steps. "Here!" cried my uncle. "Here," rejoined the guard. "Ill do nothing of the sort," said my uncle. "Very well, then stop where you are," said the guard. "I will," said my uncle. "Do," said the guard. The

The Pickwick Papers page 338        The Pickwick Papers page 340