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The Pickwick Papers 388







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The Pickwick Papers

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Sir? said the waiter. Are you deaf? inquired the little old gentleman. No, sir. Then listen, if you please. Can you hear me now? Yes, Sir. Thats well. Show me to Mrs. Winkles room, without announcing me. As the little old gentleman uttered this command, he slipped five shillings into the waiters hand, and looked steadily at him. Really, sir, said the waiter, I dont know, sir, whether-- Ah! youll do it, I see, said the little old gentleman. You had better do it at once. It will save time. There was something so very cool and collected in the gentlemans manner, that the waiter put the five shillings in his pocket, and led him upstairs without another word. This is the room, is it? said the gentleman. You may go. The waiter complied, wondering much who the gentleman could be, and what he wanted; the little old gentleman, waiting till he was out of sight, tapped at the door. Come in, said Arabella. Um, a pretty voice, at any rate, murmured the little old gentleman; but thats nothing. As he said this, he opened the door and walked in. Arabella, who was sitting at work, rose on beholding a stranger--a little confused--but by no means ungracefully so. Pray dont rise, maam, said the unknown, walking in, and closing the door after him. Mrs. Winkle, I believe? Arabella inclined her head. Mrs. Nathaniel Winkle, who married the son of the old man at Birmingham? said the stranger, eyeing Arabella with visible curiosity. Again Arabella inclined her head, and looked uneasily round, as if uncertain whether to call for assistance. I surprise you, I see, maam, said the old gentleman. Rather, I confess, replied Arabella, wondering more and more. Ill take a chair, if youll allow me, maam, said the stranger. He took one; and drawing a spectacle-case from his pocket, leisurely pulled out a pair of spectacles, which he adjusted on his nose. You dont know me, maam? he said, looking so intently at Arabella that she began to feel alarmed. No, sir, she replied timidly. No, said the gentleman, nursing his left leg; I dont know how you should. You know my name, though, maam. Do I? said Arabella, trembling, though she scarcely knew why. May I ask what it is? Presently, maam, presently, said the stranger, not having yet removed his eyes from her countenance. You have been recently married, maam? I have, replied Arabella, in a scarcely audible tone, laying aside her work, and becoming greatly agitated as a thought, that had occurred to her before, struck more forcibly upon her mind. Without having represented to your husband the propriety of first consulting his father, on whom he is dependent, I think? said the stranger. Arabella applied her handkerchief to her eyes. Without an endeavour, even, to ascertain, by some indirect appeal, what were the old mans sentiments on a point in which he would naturally feel much interested? said the stranger. I cannot deny it, Sir, said Arabella. And without having sufficient property of your own to afford your husband any permanent assistance in exchange for the worldly advantages which you knew he would have gained if he had married agreeably to his fathers wishes? said the old gentleman. This is what boys and girls call disinterested affection, till they have boys and girls of their own, and then they see it in a rougher and very different light! Arabellas tears flowed fast, as she pleaded in extenuation that she was young and inexperienced; that her attachment had alone induced her to take the step to which she had resorted; and that she had been deprived of the counsel and guidance of her parents almost from infancy. It was wrong, said the old gentleman in a milder tone, very wrong. It was romantic, unbusinesslike, foolish. It was my fault; all my fault, Sir, replied poor Arabella, weeping. Nonsense, said the old gentleman; it was not your fault that he fell in love with you, I suppose? Yes it was, though, said the old gentleman, looking rather slily at Arabella. It was your fault. He couldnt help it. This little compliment, or the little gentlemans odd way of paying it, or his altered manner--so much kinder than it was, at first--or all three together, forced a smile from Arabella in the midst of her tears. Wheres your husband? inquired the old gentleman, abruptly; stopping a smile which was just coming over his own face. I expect him every instant, sir, said Arabella. I persuaded him to take a walk this morning. He is very low and

The Pickwick Papers page 387        The Pickwick Papers page 389