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The Pickwick Papers 375







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the room he had just quitted, and passing thence into an inner apartment (Mr. Wardles bedchamber), closed the door softly, just as the persons he had caught a glimpse of entered the sitting-room. These were Mr. Wardle, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and Mr. Benjamin Allen, whom he had no difficulty in recognising by their voices. Very lucky I had the presence of mind to avoid them, thought Mr. Snodgrass with a smile, and walking on tiptoe to another door near the bedside; this opens into the same passage, and I can walk quietly and comfortably away. There was only one obstacle to his walking quietly and comfortably away, which was that the door was locked and the key gone. Let us have some of your best wine to-day, waiter, said old Wardle, rubbing his hands. You shall have some of the very best, sir, replied the waiter. Let the ladies know we have come in. Yes, Sir. Devoutly and ardently did Mr. Snodgrass wish that the ladies could know he had come in. He ventured once to whisper, Waiter! through the keyhole, but the probability of the wrong waiter coming to his relief, flashed upon his mind, together with a sense of the strong resemblance between his own situation and that in which another gentleman had been recently found in a neighbouring hotel (an account of whose misfortunes had appeared under the head of Police in that mornings paper), he sat himself on a portmanteau, and trembled violently. We wont wait a minute for Perker, said Wardle, looking at his watch; he is always exact. He will be here, in time, if he means to come; and if he does not, its of no use waiting. Ha! Arabella! My sister! exclaimed Mr. Benjamin Allen, folding her in a most romantic embrace. Oh, Ben, dear, how you do smell of tobacco, said Arabella, rather overcome by this mark of affection. Do I? said Mr. Benjamin Allen. Do I, Bella? Well, perhaps I do. Perhaps he did, having just left a pleasant little smoking-party of twelve medical students, in a small back parlour with a large fire. But I am delighted to see you, said Mr. Ben Allen. Bless you, Bella! There, said Arabella, bending forward to kiss her brother; dont take hold of me again, Ben, dear, because you tumble me so. At this point of the reconciliation, Mr. Ben Allen allowed his feelings and the cigars and porter to overcome him, and looked round upon the beholders with damp spectacles. is nothing to be said to me? cried Wardle, with open arms. A great deal, whispered Arabella, as she received the old gentlemans hearty caress and congratulation. You are a hard- hearted, unfeeling, cruel monster. You are a little rebel, replied Wardle, in the same tone, and I am afraid I shall be obliged to forbid you the house. People like you, who get married in spite of everybody, ought not to be let loose on society. But come! added the old gentleman aloud, heres the dinner; you shall sit by me. Joe; why, damn the boy, hes awake! To the great distress of his master, the fat boy was indeed in a state of remarkable vigilance, his eyes being wide open, and looking as if they intended to remain so. There was an alacrity in his manner, too, which was equally unaccountable; every time his eyes met those of Emily or Arabella, he smirked and grinned; once, Wardle could have sworn, he saw him wink. This alteration in the fat boys demeanour originated in his increased sense of his own importance, and the dignity he acquired from having been taken into the confidence of the young ladies; and the smirks, and grins, and winks were so many condescending assurances that they might depend upon his fidelity. As these tokens were rather calculated to awaken suspicion than allay it, and were somewhat embarrassing besides, they were occasionally answered by a frown or shake of the head from Arabella, which the fat boy, considering as hints to be on his guard, expressed his perfect understanding of, by smirking, grinning, and winking, with redoubled assiduity. Joe, said Mr. Wardle, after an unsuccessful search in all his pockets, is my snuff-box on the sofa? No, sir, replied the fat boy. Oh, I recollect; I left it on my dressing-table this morning, said Wardle. Run into the next room and fetch it. The fat boy went into the next room; and, having been absent about a minute, returned with the snuff-box, and the palest face that ever

The Pickwick Papers page 374        The Pickwick Papers page 376