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The Pickwick Papers 349







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The Pickwick Papers

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you are well, sir. Right as a trivet, sir, replied Bob Sawyer. This other gentleman, cried Mr. Pickwick, is, as you will see when you have read the letter with which I am intrusted, a very near relative, or I should rather say a very particular friend of your sons. His name is Allen. THAT gentleman? inquired Mr. Winkle, pointing with the card towards Ben Allen, who had fallen asleep in an attitude which left nothing of him visible but his spine and his coat collar. Mr. Pickwick was on the point of replying to the question, and reciting Mr. Benjamin Allens name and honourable distinctions at full length, when the sprightly Mr. Bob Sawyer, with a view of rousing his friend to a sense of his situation, inflicted a startling pinch upon the fleshly part of his arm, which caused him to jump up with a shriek. Suddenly aware that he was in the presence of a stranger, Mr. Ben Allen advanced and, shaking Mr. Winkle most affectionately by both hands for about five minutes, murmured, in some half-intelligible fragments of sentences, the great delight he felt in seeing him, and a hospitable inquiry whether he felt disposed to take anything after his walk, or would prefer waiting till dinner-time; which done, he sat down and gazed about him with a petrified stare, as if he had not the remotest idea where he was, which indeed he had not. All this was most embarrassing to Mr. Pickwick, the more especially as Mr. Winkle, senior, evinced palpable astonishment at the eccentric--not to say extraordinary--behaviour of his two companions. To bring the matter to an issue at once, he drew a letter from his pocket, and presenting it to Mr. Winkle, senior, said-- This letter, Sir, is from your son. You will see, by its contents, that on your favourable and fatherly consideration of it, depend his future happiness and welfare. Will you oblige me by giving it the calmest and coolest perusal, and by discussing the subject afterwards with me, in the tone and spirit in which alone it ought to be discussed? You may judge of the importance of your decision to your son, and his intense anxiety upon the subject, by my waiting upon you, without any previous warning, at so late an hour; and, added Mr. Pickwick, glancing slightly at his two companions--and under such unfavourable circumstances. With this prelude, Mr. Pickwick placed four closely-written sides of extra superfine wire-wove penitence in the hands of the astounded Mr. Winkle, senior. Then reseating himself in his chair, he watched his looks and manner: anxiously, it is true, but with the open front of a gentleman who feels he has taken no part which he need excuse or palliate. The old wharfinger turned the letter over, looked at the front, back, and sides, made a microscopic examination of the fat little boy on the seal, raised his eyes to Mr. Pickwicks face, and then, seating himself on the high stool, and drawing the lamp closer to him, broke the wax, unfolded the epistle, and lifting it to the light, prepared to read. Just at this moment, Mr. Bob Sawyer, whose wit had lain dormant for some minutes, placed his hands on his knees, and made a face after the portraits of the late Mr. Grimaldi, as clown. It so happened that Mr. Winkle, senior, instead of being deeply engaged in reading the letter, as Mr. Bob Sawyer thought, chanced to be looking over the top of it at no less a person than Mr. Bob Sawyer himself; rightly conjecturing that the face aforesaid was made in ridicule and derision of his own person, he fixed his eyes on Bob with such expressive sternness, that the late Mr. Grimaldis lineaments gradually resolved themselves into a very fine expression of humility and confusion. Did you speak, Sir? inquired Mr. Winkle, senior, after an awful silence. No, sir, replied Bob, With no remains of the clown about him, save and except the extreme redness of his cheeks. You are sure you did not, sir? said Mr. Winkle, senior. Oh dear, yes, sir, quite, replied Bob. I thought you did, Sir, replied the old gentleman, with indignant emphasis. Perhaps you LOOKED at me, sir? Oh, no! sir, not at all, replied Bob, with extreme civility. I am very glad to hear it, sir, said Mr. Winkle, senior. Having frowned upon the abashed Bob with great magnificence, the old gentleman again brought the letter to the light, and began to read it seriously. Mr. Pickwick eyed him intently as

The Pickwick Papers page 348        The Pickwick Papers page 350