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The Pickwick Papers 64







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The Pickwick Papers

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Mr. Pickwicks beaming face without experiencing the sensation? But still a cloud seemed to hang over his companions which that great man could not but be sensible of, and was wholly at a loss to account for. There was a mysterious air about them both, as unusual as it was alarming. And how, said Mr. Pickwick, when he had grasped his followers by the hand, and exchanged warm salutations of welcome--how is Tupman? Mr. Winkle, to whom the question was more peculiarly addressed, made no reply. He turned away his head, and appeared absorbed in melancholy reflection. Snodgrass, said Mr. Pickwick earnestly, how is our friend-- he is not ill? No, replied Mr. Snodgrass; and a tear trembled on his sentimental eyelid, like a rain-drop on a window-frame-no; he is not ill. Mr. Pickwick stopped, and gazed on each of his friends in turn. Winkle--Snodgrass, said Mr. Pickwick; what does this mean? Where is our friend? What has happened? Speak--I conjure, I entreat--nay, I command you, speak. There was a solemnity--a dignity--in Mr. Pickwicks manner, not to be withstood. He is gone, said Mr. Snodgrass. Gone! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. Gone! Gone, repeated Mr. Snodgrass. Where! ejaculated Mr. Pickwick. We can only guess, from that communication, replied Mr. Snodgrass, taking a letter from his pocket, and placing it in his friends hand. Yesterday morning, when a letter was received from Mr. Wardle, stating that you would be home with his sister at night, the melancholy which had hung over our friend during the whole of the previous day, was observed to increase. He shortly afterwards disappeared: he was missing during the whole day, and in the evening this letter was brought by the hostler from the Crown, at Muggleton. It had been left in his charge in the morning, with a strict injunction that it should not be delivered until night. Mr. Pickwick opened the epistle. It was in his friends hand- writing, and these were its contents:-- MY DEAR PICKWICK,--YOU, my dear friend, are placed far beyond the reach of many mortal frailties and weaknesses which ordinary people cannot overcome. You do not know what it is, at one blow, to be deserted by a lovely and fascinating creature, and to fall a victim to the artifices of a villain, who had the grin of cunning beneath the mask of friendship. I hope you never may. Any letter addressed to me at the Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent, will be forwarded--supposing I still exist. I hasten from the sight of that world, which has become odious to me. Should I hasten from it altogether, pity--forgive me. Life, my dear Pickwick, has become insupportable to me. The spirit which burns within us, is a porters knot, on which to rest the heavy load of worldly cares and troubles; and when that spirit fails us, the burden is too heavy to be borne. We sink beneath it. You may tell Rachael--Ah, that name!-- TRACY TupmAN. We must leave this place directly, said Mr. Pickwick, as he refolded the note. It would not have been decent for us to remain here, under any circumstances, after what has happened; and now we are bound to follow in search of our friend. And so saying, he led the way to the house. His intention was rapidly communicated. The entreaties to remain were pressing, but Mr. Pickwick was inflexible. Business, he said, required his immediate attendance. The old clergyman was present. You are not really going? said he, taking Mr. Pickwick aside. Mr. Pickwick reiterated his former determination. Then here, said the old gentleman, is a little manuscript, which I had hoped to have the pleasure of reading to you myself. I found it on the death of a friend of mine--a medical man, engaged in our county lunatic asylum--among a variety of papers, which I had the option of destroying or preserving, as I thought proper. I can hardly believe that the manuscript is genuine, though it certainly is not in my friends hand. However, whether it be the genuine production of a maniac, or founded upon the ravings of some unhappy being (which I think more probable), read it, and judge for yourself. Mr. Pickwick received the manuscript, and parted from the benevolent old gentleman with many expressions

The Pickwick Papers page 63        The Pickwick Papers page 65