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The Pickwick Papers 389







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wretched at not having heard from his father. Low, is he? said the old gentlemen. Serve him right! He feels it on my account, I am afraid, said Arabella; and indeed, Sir, I feel it deeply on his. I have been the sole means of bringing him to his present condition. Dont mind it on his account, my dear, said the old gentleman. It serves him right. I am glad of it--actually glad of it, as far as he is concerned. The words were scarcely out of the old gentlemans lips, when footsteps were heard ascending the stairs, which he and Arabella seemed both to recognise at the same moment. The little gentleman turned pale; and, making a strong effort to appear composed, stood up, as Mr. Winkle entered the room. Father! cried Mr. Winkle, recoiling in amazement. Yes, sir, replied the little old gentleman. Well, Sir, what have you got to say to me? Mr. Winkle remained silent. You are ashamed of yourself, I hope, Sir? said the old gentleman. Still Mr. Winkle said nothing. Are you ashamed of yourself, Sir, or are you not? inquired the old gentleman. No, Sir, replied Mr. Winkle, drawing Arabellas arm through his. I am not ashamed of myself, or of my wife either. Upon my word! cried the old gentleman ironically. I am very sorry to have done anything which has lessened your affection for me, Sir, said Mr. Winkle; but I will say, at the same time, that I have no reason to be ashamed of having this lady for my wife, nor you of having her for a daughter. Give me your hand, Nat, said the old gentleman, in an altered voice. Kiss me, my love. You are a very charming little daughter-in-law after all! In a few minutes time Mr. Winkle went in search of Mr. Pickwick, and returning with that gentleman, presented him to his father, whereupon they shook hands for five minutes incessantly. Mr. Pickwick, I thank you most heartily for all your kindness to my son, said old Mr. Winkle, in a bluff, straightforward way. I am a hasty fellow, and when I saw you last, I was vexed and taken by surprise. I have judged for myself now, and am more than satisfied. Shall I make any more apologies, Mr. Pickwick? Not one, replied that gentleman. You have done the only thing wanting to complete my happiness. Hereupon there was another shaking of hands for five minutes longer, accompanied by a great number of complimentary speeches, which, besides being complimentary, had the additional and very novel recommendation of being sincere. Sam had dutifully seen his father to the Belle Sauvage, when, on returning, he encountered the fat boy in the court, who had been charged with the delivery of a note from Emily Wardle. I say, said Joe, who was unusually loquacious, what a pretty girl Mary is, isnt she? I am SO fond of her, I am! Mr. Weller made no verbal remark in reply; but eyeing the fat boy for a moment, quite transfixed at his presumption, led him by the collar to the corner, and dismissed him with a harmless but ceremonious kick. After which, he walked home, whistling.

CHAPTER LVII

IN WHICH THE PICKWICK CLUB IS FINALLY DISSOLVED, AND EVERYTHING CONCLUDED TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERYBODY

For a whole week after the happy arrival of Mr. Winkle from Birmingham, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller were from home all day long, only returning just in time for dinner, and then wearing an air of mystery and importance quite foreign to their natures. It was evident that very grave and eventful proceedings were on foot; but various surmises were afloat, respecting their precise character. Some (among whom was Mr. Tupman) were disposed to think that Mr. Pickwick contemplated a matrimonial alliance; but this idea the ladies most strenuously repudiated. Others rather inclined to the belief that he had projected some distant tour, and was at present occupied in effecting the preliminary arrangements; but this again was stoutly denied by Sam himself, who had unequivocally stated, when cross-examined by Mary, that no new journeys were to be undertaken. At length, when the brains of the whole party had been racked for six long days, by unavailing speculation, it was unanimously resolved that Mr. Pickwick should be called upon to explain his conduct, and to state distinctly why he had thus absented himself from the society of his admiring friends. With this view, Mr. Wardle invited

The Pickwick Papers page 388        The Pickwick Papers page 390