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The Pickwick Papers 370







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is a knock at the door, said Mr. Pickwick, as if there could be the smallest doubt of the fact. The knocker made a more energetic reply than words could have yielded, for it continued to hammer with surprising force and noise, without a moments cessation. Dear me! said Perker, ringing his bell, we shall alarm the inn. Mr. Lowten, dont you hear a knock? Ill answer the door in one moment, Sir, replied the clerk. The knocker appeared to hear the response, and to assert that it was quite impossible he could wait so long. It made a stupendous uproar. Its quite dreadful, said Mr. Pickwick, stopping his ears. Make haste, Mr. Lowten, Perker called out; we shall have the panels beaten in. Mr. Lowten, who was washing his hands in a dark closet, hurried to the door, and turning the handle, beheld the appearance which is described in the next chapter.

CHAPTER LIV

CONTAINING SOME PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO THE DOUBLE KNOCK, AND OTHER MATTERS: AMONG WHICH CERTAIN INTERESTING DISCLOSURES RELATIVE TO Mr. SNODGRASS AND A YOUNG LADY ARE BY NO MEANS IRRELEVANT TO THIS HISTORY

The object that presented itself to the eyes of the astonished clerk, was a boy--a wonderfully fat boy--habited as a serving lad, standing upright on the mat, with his eyes closed as if in sleep. He had never seen such a fat boy, in or out of a travelling caravan; and this, coupled with the calmness and repose of his appearance, so very different from what was reasonably to have been expected of the inflicter of such knocks, smote him with wonder. Whats the matter? inquired the clerk. The extraordinary boy replied not a word; but he nodded once, and seemed, to the clerks imagination, to snore feebly. Where do you come from? inquired the clerk. The boy made no sign. He breathed heavily, but in all other respects was motionless. The clerk repeated the question thrice, and receiving no answer, prepared to shut the door, when the boy suddenly opened his eyes, winked several times, sneezed once, and raised his hand as if to repeat the knocking. Finding the door open, he stared about him with astonishment, and at length fixed his eyes on Mr. Lowtens face. What the devil do you knock in that way for? inquired the clerk angrily. Which way? said the boy, in a slow and sleepy voice. Why, like forty hackney-coachmen, replied the clerk. Because master said, I wasnt to leave off knocking till they opened the door, for fear I should go to sleep, said the boy. Well, said the clerk, what message have you brought? Hes downstairs, rejoined the boy. Who? Master. He wants to know whether youre at home. Mr. Lowten bethought himself, at this juncture, of looking out of the window. Seeing an open carriage with a hearty old gentleman in it, looking up very anxiously, he ventured to beckon him; on which, the old gentleman jumped out directly. Thats your master in the carriage, I suppose? said Lowten. The boy nodded. All further inquiries were superseded by the appearance of old Wardle, who, running upstairs and just recognising Lowten, passed at once into Mr. Perkers room. Pickwick! said the old gentleman. Your hand, my boy! Why have I never heard until the day before yesterday of your suffering yourself to be cooped up in jail? And why did you let him do it, Perker? I couldnt help it, my dear Sir, replied Perker, with a smile and a pinch of snuff; you know how obstinate he is? Of course I do; of course I do, replied the old gentleman. I am heartily glad to see him, notwithstanding. I will not lose sight of him again, in a hurry. With these words, Wardle shook Mr. Pickwicks hand once more, and, having done the same by Perker, threw himself into an arm-chair, his jolly red face shining again with smiles and health. Well! said Wardle. Here are pretty goings on--a pinch of your snuff, Perker, my boy--never were such times, eh? What do you mean? inquired Mr. Pickwick. Mean! replied Wardle. Why, I think the girls are all running mad; thats no news, youll say? Perhaps its not; but its true, for all that. You have not come up to London, of all places in the world, to tell us that, my dear Sir, have you? inquired Perker. No, not altogether, replied Wardle; though it was the main cause of my coming. Hows Arabella? Very well, replied Mr.

The Pickwick Papers page 369        The Pickwick Papers page 371