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The Pickwick Papers 355







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The Pickwick Papers

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to the disclosure, and we throw ourselves on the country and its constables for protection--we boldly state that secret preparations are at this moment in progress for a Buff ball; which is to be held in a Buff town, in the very heart and centre of a Buff population; which is to be conducted by a Buff master of the ceremonies; which is to be attended by four ultra Buff members of Parliament, and the admission to which, is to be by Buff tickets! Does our fiendish contemporary wince? Let him writhe, in impotent malice, as we pen the words, WE WILL BE THERE. There, Sir, said Pott, folding up the paper quite exhausted, that is the state of the case! The landlord and waiter entering at the moment with dinner, caused Mr. Pott to lay his finger on his lips, in token that he considered his life in Mr. Pickwicks hands, and depended on his secrecy. Messrs. Bob Sawyer and Benjamin Allen, who had irreverently fallen asleep during the reading of the quotation from the Eatanswill GAZETTE, and the discussion which followed it, were roused by the mere whispering of the talismanic word Dinner in their ears; and to dinner they went with good digestion waiting on appetite, and health on both, and a waiter on all three. In the course of the dinner and the sitting which succeeded it, Mr. Pott descending, for a few moments, to domestic topics, informed Mr. Pickwick that the air of Eatanswill not agreeing with his lady, she was then engaged in making a tour of different fashionable watering-places with a view to the recovery of her wonted health and spirits; this was a delicate veiling of the fact that Mrs. Pott, acting upon her often-repeated threat of separation, had, in virtue of an arrangement negotiated by her brother, the lieutenant, and concluded by Mr. Pott, permanently retired with the faithful bodyguard upon one moiety or half part of the annual income and profits arising from the editorship and sale of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. While the great Mr. Pott was dwelling upon this and other matters, enlivening the conversation from time to time with various extracts from his own lucubrations, a stern stranger, calling from the window of a stage-coach, outward bound, which halted at the inn to deliver packages, requested to know whether if he stopped short on his journey and remained there for the night, he could be furnished with the necessary accommodation of a bed and bedstead. Certainly, sir, replied the landlord. I can, can I? inquired the stranger, who seemed habitually suspicious in look and manner. No doubt of it, Sir, replied the landlord. Good, said the stranger. Coachman, I get down here. Guard, my carpet-bag! Bidding the other passengers good-night, in a rather snappish manner, the stranger alighted. He was a shortish gentleman, with very stiff black hair cut in the porcupine or blacking-brush style, and standing stiff and straight all over his head; his aspect was pompous and threatening; his manner was peremptory; his eyes were sharp and restless; and his whole bearing bespoke a feeling of great confidence in himself, and a consciousness of immeasurable superiority over all other people. This gentleman was shown into the room originally assigned to the patriotic Mr. Pott; and the waiter remarked, in dumb astonishment at the singular coincidence, that he had no sooner lighted the candles than the gentleman, diving into his hat, drew forth a newspaper, and began to read it with the very same expression of indignant scorn, which, upon the majestic features of Pott, had paralysed his energies an hour before. The man observed too, that, whereas Mr. Potts scorn had been roused by a newspaper headed the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT, this gentlemans withering contempt was awakened by a newspaper entitled the Eatanswill GAZETTE. Send the landlord, said the stranger. Yes, sir, rejoined the waiter. The landlord was sent, and came. Are you the landlord? inquired the gentleman. I am sir, replied the landlord. My name is Slurk, said the gentleman. The landlord slightly inclined his head. Slurk, sir, repeated the gentleman haughtily. Do you know me now, man? The landlord scratched his head, looked at the ceiling, and at the stranger, and smiled feebly. Do you know me, man? inquired the stranger angrily. The landlord made a strong effort, and at length replied, Well, Sir, I do not know you. Great Heaven! said the stranger, dashing his clenched fist upon the table. And this is popularity! The landlord took a step or two towards the door; the stranger fixing his eyes upon him, resumed. This, said the stranger--this is gratitude for years of

The Pickwick Papers page 354        The Pickwick Papers page 356