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Chapter 54 Containing some Particulars relative to the Double Knock, an_ther 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 _oy—a wonderfully fat boy—habited as a serving lad, standing upright on th_at, with his eyes closed as if in sleep. He had never seen such a fat boy, i_r out of a travelling caravan; and this, coupled with the calmness and repos_f his appearance, so very different from what was reasonably to have bee_xpected of the inflicter of such knocks, smote him with wonder.
  • ‘What’s the matter?’ inquired the clerk.
  • The extraordinary boy replied not a word; but he nodded once, and seemed, t_he clerk’s 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 wa_otionless.
  • The clerk repeated the question thrice, and receiving no answer, prepared t_hut 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 th_oor open, he stared about him with astonishment, and at length fixed his eye_n Mr. Lowten’s 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 wasn’t to leave off knocking till they opened th_oor, for fear I should go to sleep,’ said the boy.
  • ‘Well,’ said the clerk, ‘what message have you brought?’
  • ‘He’s downstairs,’ rejoined the boy.
  • ‘Who?’
  • ‘Master. He wants to know whether you’re 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 ver_nxiously, he ventured to beckon him; on which, the old gentleman jumped ou_irectly.
  • ‘That’s 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  • All further inquiries were superseded by the appearance of old Wardle, who, running upstairs and just recognising Lowten, passed at once into Mr. Perker’_oom.
  • ‘Pickwick!’ said the old gentleman. ‘Your hand, my boy! Why have I never hear_ntil the day before yesterday of your suffering yourself to be cooped up i_ail? And why did you let him do it, Perker?’
  • ‘I couldn’t help it, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker, with a smile and a pinch o_nuff; ‘you know how obstinate he is?’
  • ‘Of course I do; of course I do,’ replied the old gentleman. ‘I am heartil_lad to see him, notwithstanding. I will not lose sight of him again, in _urry.’
  • With these words, Wardle shook Mr. Pickwick’s hand once more, and, having don_he same by Perker, threw himself into an arm–chair, his jolly red fac_hining 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; that’s n_ews, you’ll say? Perhaps it’s not; but it’s 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 m_oming. How’s Arabella?’
  • ‘Very well,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘and will be delighted to see you, I a_ure.’
  • ‘Black–eyed little jilt!’ replied Wardle. ‘I had a great idea of marrying he_yself, one of these odd days. But I am glad of it too, very glad.’
  • ‘How did the intelligence reach you?’ asked Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Oh, it came to my girls, of course,‘replied Wardle. ‘Arabella wrote, the da_efore yesterday, to say she had made a stolen match without her husband’_ather’s consent, and so you had gone down to get it when his refusing i_ouldn’t prevent the match, and all the rest of it. I thought it a very goo_ime to say something serious to my girls; so I said what a dreadful thing i_as that children should marry without their parents’ consent, and so forth; but, bless your hearts, I couldn’t make the least impression upon them. The_hought it such a much more dreadful thing that there should have been _edding without bridesmaids, that I might as well have preached to Jo_imself.’ Here the old gentleman stopped to laugh; and having done so to hi_eart’s content, presently resumed—
  • ‘But this is not the best of it, it seems. This is only half the love–makin_nd plotting that have been going forward. We have been walking on mines fo_he last six months, and they’re sprung at last.’
  • ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning pale; ‘no other secre_arriage, I hope?’
  • ‘No, no,’ replied old Wardle; ‘not so bad as that; no.’
  • ‘What then?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick; ‘am I interested in it?’
  • ‘Shall I answer that question, Perker?’ said Wardle.
  • ‘If you don’t commit yourself by doing so, my dear Sir.’
  • ‘Well then, you are,’ said Wardle.
  • ‘How?’ asked Mr. Pickwick anxiously. ‘In what way?’
  • ‘Really,’ replied Wardle, ‘you’re such a fiery sort of a young fellow that _m almost afraid to tell you; but, however, if Perker will sit between us t_revent mischief, I’ll venture.’
  • Having closed the room door, and fortified himself with another application t_erker’s snuff–box, the old gentleman proceeded with his great disclosure i_hese words—
  • ‘The fact is, that my daughter Bella—Bella, who married young Trundle, yo_now.’
  • ‘Yes, yes, we know,’ said Mr. Pickwick impatiently.
  • ‘Don’t alarm me at the very beginning. My daughter Bella—Emily having gone t_ed with a headache after she had read Arabella’s letter to me—sat hersel_own by my side the other evening, and began to talk over this marriag_ffair. “Well, pa,” she says, “what do you think of it?” “Why, my dear,” _aid, “I suppose it’s all very well; I hope it’s for the best.” I answered i_his way because I was sitting before the fire at the time, drinking my gro_ather thoughtfully, and I knew my throwing in an undecided word now and then, would induce her to continue talking. Both my girls are pictures of their dea_other, and as I grow old I like to sit with only them by me; for their voice_nd looks carry me back to the happiest period of my life, and make me, fo_he moment, as young as I used to be then, though not quite so light–hearted.
  • “It’s quite a marriage of affection, pa,” said Bella, after a short silence.
  • “Yes, my dear,” said I, “but such marriages do not always turn out th_appiest.”’
  • ‘I question that, mind!’ interposed Mr. Pickwick warmly. ‘Very good,’ responded Wardle, ‘question anything you like when it’s your turn to speak, but don’t interrupt me.’
  • ‘I beg your pardon,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Granted,’ replied Wardle. ‘“I am sorry to hear you express your opinio_gainst marriages of affection, pa,” said Bella, colouring a little. “I wa_rong; I ought not to have said so, my dear, either,” said I, patting he_heek as kindly as a rough old fellow like me could pat it, “for your mother’_as one, and so was yours.” “It’s not that I meant, pa,” said Bella. “The fac_s, pa, I wanted to speak to you about Emily.”’
  • Mr. Pickwick started.
  • ‘What’s the matter now?’ inquired Wardle, stopping in his narrative.
  • ‘Nothing,‘replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Pray go on.’
  • ‘I never could spin out a story,’ said Wardle abruptly. ‘It must come out, sooner or later, and it’ll save us all a great deal of time if it comes a_nce. The long and the short of it is, then, that Bella at last mustered u_ourage to tell me that Emily was very unhappy; that she and your young frien_nodgrass had been in constant correspondence and communication ever sinc_ast Christmas; that she had very dutifully made up her mind to run away wit_im, in laudable imitation of her old friend and school–fellow; but tha_aving some compunctions of conscience on the subject, inasmuch as I ha_lways been rather kindly disposed to both of them, they had thought it bette_n the first instance to pay me the compliment of asking whether I would hav_ny objection to their being married in the usual matter–of–fact manner. Ther_ow, Mr. Pickwick, if you can make it convenient to reduce your eyes to thei_sual size again, and to let me hear what you think we ought to do, I shal_eel rather obliged to you!’
  • The testy manner in which the hearty old gentleman uttered this last sentenc_as not wholly unwarranted; for Mr. Pickwick’s face had settled down into a_xpression of blank amazement and perplexity, quite curious to behold.
  • ‘Snodgrass!–since last Christmas!’ were the first broken words that issue_rom the lips of the confounded gentleman.
  • ‘Since last Christmas,’ replied Wardle; ‘that’s plain enough, and very ba_pectacles we must have worn, not to have discovered it before.’
  • ‘I don’t understand it,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ruminating; ‘I cannot reall_nderstand it.’
  • ‘It’s easy enough to understand it,’ replied the choleric old gentleman. ‘I_ou had been a younger man, you would have been in the secret long ago; an_esides,’ added Wardle, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘the truth is, that, knowing nothing of this matter, I have rather pressed Emily for four or fiv_onths past, to receive favourably (if she could; I would never attempt t_orce a girl’s inclinations) the addresses of a young gentleman down in ou_eighbourhood. I have no doubt that, girl–like, to enhance her own value an_ncrease the ardour of Mr. Snodgrass, she has represented this matter in ver_lowing colours, and that they have both arrived at the conclusion that the_re a terribly–persecuted pair of unfortunates, and have no resource bu_landestine matrimony, or charcoal. Now the question is, what’s to be done?’
  • ‘What have you done?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘I!’
  • ‘I mean what did you do when your married daughter told you this?’
  • ‘Oh, I made a fool of myself of course,’ rejoined Wardle.
  • ‘Just so,’ interposed Perker, who had accompanied this dialogue with sundr_witchings of his watch–chain, vindictive rubbings of his nose, and othe_ymptoms of impatience. ‘That’s very natural; but how?’
  • ‘I went into a great passion and frightened my mother into a fit,’ sai_ardle.
  • ‘That was judicious,’ remarked Perker; ‘and what else?’
  • ‘I fretted and fumed all next day, and raised a great disturbance,’ rejoine_he old gentleman. ‘At last I got tired of rendering myself unpleasant an_aking everybody miserable; so I hired a carriage at Muggleton, and, puttin_y own horses in it, came up to town, under pretence of bringing Emily to se_rabella.’
  • ‘Miss Wardle is with you, then?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘To be sure she is,’ replied Wardle. ‘She is at Osborne’s Hotel in the Adelph_t this moment, unless your enterprising friend has run away with her since _ame out this morning.’
  • ‘You are reconciled then?’ said Perker.
  • ‘Not a bit of it,’ answered Wardle; ‘she has been crying and moping eve_ince, except last night, between tea and supper, when she made a great parad_f writing a letter that I pretended to take no notice of.’
  • ‘You want my advice in this matter, I suppose?’ said Perker, looking from th_using face of Mr. Pickwick to the eager countenance of Wardle, and takin_everal consecutive pinches of his favourite stimulant.
  • ‘I suppose so,’ said Wardle, looking at Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Certainly,’ replied that gentleman.
  • ‘Well then,’ said Perker, rising and pushing his chair back, ‘my advice is, that you both walk away together, or ride away, or get away by some means o_ther, for I’m tired of you, and just talk this matter over between you. I_ou have not settled it by the next time I see you, I’ll tell you what to do.’
  • ‘This is satisfactory,’ said Wardle, hardly knowing whether to smile or b_ffended.
  • ‘Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir,’ returned Perker. ‘I know you both a great dea_etter than you know yourselves. You have settled it already, to all intent_nd purposes.’
  • Thus expressing himself, the little gentleman poked his snuff–box first int_he chest of Mr. Pickwick, and then into the waistcoat of Mr. Wardle, upo_hich they all three laughed, especially the two last–named gentlemen, who a_nce shook hands again, without any obvious or particular reason.
  • ‘You dine with me to–day,’ said Wardle to Perker, as he showed them out.
  • ‘Can’t promise, my dear Sir, can’t promise,’ replied Perker. ‘I’ll look in, i_he evening, at all events.’
  • ‘I shall expect you at five,’ said Wardle. ‘Now, Joe!’ And Joe having been a_ength awakened, the two friends departed in Mr. Wardle’s carriage, which i_ommon humanity had a dickey behind for the fat boy, who, if there had been _ootboard instead, would have rolled off and killed himself in his very firs_ap.
  • Driving to the George and Vulture, they found that Arabella and her maid ha_ent for a hackney–coach immediately on the receipt of a short note from Emil_nnouncing her arrival in town, and had proceeded straight to the Adelphi. A_ardle had business to transact in the city, they sent the carriage and th_at boy to his hotel, with the information that he and Mr. Pickwick woul_eturn together to dinner at five o’clock.
  • Charged with this message, the fat boy returned, slumbering as peaceably i_is dickey, over the stones, as if it had been a down bed on watch springs. B_ome extraordinary miracle he awoke of his own accord, when the coach stopped, and giving himself a good shake to stir up his faculties, went upstairs t_xecute his commission.
  • Now, whether the shake had jumbled the fat boy’s faculties together, instea_f arranging them in proper order, or had roused such a quantity of new idea_ithin him as to render him oblivious of ordinary forms and ceremonies, or (which is also possible) had proved unsuccessful in preventing his fallin_sleep as he ascended the stairs, it is an undoubted fact that he walked int_he sitting–room without previously knocking at the door; and so beheld _entleman with his arms clasping his young mistress’s waist, sitting ver_ovingly by her side on a sofa, while Arabella and her pretty handmaid feigne_o be absorbed in looking out of a window at the other end of the room. At th_ight of this phenomenon, the fat boy uttered an interjection, the ladies _cream, and the gentleman an oath, almost simultaneously.
  • ‘Wretched creature, what do you want here?’ said the gentleman, who it i_eedless to say was Mr. Snodgrass.
  • To this the fat boy, considerably terrified, briefly responded, ‘Missis.’
  • ‘What do you want me for,’ inquired Emily, turning her head aside, ‘you stupi_reature?’
  • ‘Master and Mr. Pickwick is a–going to dine here at five,’ replied the fa_oy.
  • ‘Leave the room!’ said Mr. Snodgrass, glaring upon the bewildered youth.
  • ‘No, no, no,’ added Emily hastily. ‘Bella, dear, advise me.’
  • Upon this, Emily and Mr. Snodgrass, and Arabella and Mary, crowded into _orner, and conversed earnestly in whispers for some minutes, during which th_at boy dozed.
  • ‘Joe,’ said Arabella, at length, looking round with a most bewitching smile, ‘how do you do, Joe?’
  • ‘Joe,’ said Emily, ‘you’re a very good boy; I won’t forget you, Joe.’
  • ‘Joe,’ said Mr. Snodgrass, advancing to the astonished youth, and seizing hi_and, ‘I didn’t know you before. There’s five shillings for you, Joe!”
  • ‘I’ll owe you five, Joe,’ said Arabella, ‘for old acquaintance sake, yo_now;’ and another most captivating smile was bestowed upon the corpulen_ntruder.
  • The fat boy’s perception being slow, he looked rather puzzled at first t_ccount for this sudden prepossession in his favour, and stared about him in _ery alarming manner. At length his broad face began to show symptoms of _rin of proportionately broad dimensions; and then, thrusting half–a–crow_nto each of his pockets, and a hand and wrist after it, he burst into a hors_augh: being for the first and only time in his existence.
  • ‘He understands us, I see,’ said Arabella. ‘He had better have something t_at, immediately,’ remarked Emily.
  • The fat boy almost laughed again when he heard this suggestion. Mary, after _ittle more whispering, tripped forth from the group and said—
  • ‘I am going to dine with you to–day, sir, if you have no objection.’
  • ‘This way,’ said the fat boy eagerly. ‘There is such a jolly meat–pie!’
  • With these words, the fat boy led the way downstairs; his pretty companio_aptivating all the waiters and angering all the chambermaids as she followe_im to the eating–room.
  • There was the meat–pie of which the youth had spoken so feelingly, and ther_ere, moreover, a steak, and a dish of potatoes, and a pot of porter.
  • ‘Sit down,’ said the fat boy. ‘Oh, my eye, how prime! I am so hungry.’
  • Having apostrophised his eye, in a species of rapture, five or six times, th_outh took the head of the little table, and Mary seated herself at th_ottom.
  • ‘Will you have some of this?’ said the fat boy, plunging into the pie up t_he very ferules of the knife and fork.
  • ‘A little, if you please,’ replied Mary.
  • The fat boy assisted Mary to a little, and himself to a great deal, and wa_ust going to begin eating when he suddenly laid down his knife and fork, leaned forward in his chair, and letting his hands, with the knife and fork i_hem, fall on his knees, said, very slowly—
  • ‘I say! How nice you look!’
  • This was said in an admiring manner, and was, so far, gratifying; but stil_here was enough of the cannibal in the young gentleman’s eyes to render th_ompliment a double one.
  • ‘Dear me, Joseph,’ said Mary, affecting to blush, ‘what do you mean?’
  • The fat boy, gradually recovering his former position, replied with a heav_igh, and, remaining thoughtful for a few moments, drank a long draught of th_orter. Having achieved this feat, he sighed again, and applied himsel_ssiduously to the pie.
  • ‘What a nice young lady Miss Emily is!’ said Mary, after a long silence.
  • The fat boy had by this time finished the pie. He fixed his eyes on Mary, an_eplied—‘I knows a nicerer.’
  • ‘Indeed!’ said Mary.
  • ‘Yes, indeed!’ replied the fat boy, with unwonted vivacity.
  • ‘What’s her name?’ inquired Mary.
  • ‘What’s yours?’
  • ‘Mary.’
  • ‘So’s hers,’ said the fat boy. ‘You’re her.’ The boy grinned to add point t_he compliment, and put his eyes into something between a squint and a cast, which there is reason to believe he intended for an ogle.
  • ‘You mustn’t talk to me in that way,’ said Mary; ‘you don’t mean it.’
  • ‘Don’t I, though?’ replied the fat boy. ‘I say?’
  • ‘Well?’
  • ‘Are you going to come here regular?’
  • ‘No,’ rejoined Mary, shaking her head, ‘I’m going away again to–night. Why?’
  • ‘Oh,’ said the fat boy, in a tone of strong feeling; ‘how we should hav_njoyed ourselves at meals, if you had been!’
  • ‘I might come here sometimes, perhaps, to see you,’ said Mary, plaiting th_able–cloth in assumed coyness, ‘if you would do me a favour.’
  • The fat boy looked from the pie–dish to the steak, as if he thought a favou_ust be in a manner connected with something to eat; and then took out one o_he half–crowns and glanced at it nervously.
  • ‘Don’t you understand me?’ said Mary, looking slily in his fat face.
  • Again he looked at the half–crown, and said faintly, ‘No.’
  • ‘The ladies want you not to say anything to the old gentleman about the youn_entleman having been upstairs; and I want you too.’
  • ,is that all?’ said the fat boy, evidently very much relieved, as he pockete_he half–crown again. ‘Of course I ain’t a–going to.’
  • ‘You see,’ said Mary, ‘Mr. Snodgrass is very fond of Miss Emily, and Mis_mily’s very fond of him, and if you were to tell about it, the old gentlema_ould carry you all away miles into the country, where you’d see nobody.’
  • ‘No, no, I won’t tell,’ said the fat boy stoutly.
  • ‘That’s a dear,’ said Mary. ‘Now it’s time I went upstairs, and got my lad_eady for dinner.’
  • ‘Don’t go yet,’ urged the fat boy.
  • ‘I must,’ replied Mary. ‘Good–bye, for the present.’
  • The fat boy, with elephantine playfulness, stretched out his arms to ravish _iss; but as it required no great agility to elude him, his fair enslaver ha_anished before he closed them again; upon which the apathetic youth ate _ound or so of steak with a sentimental countenance, and fell fast asleep.
  • There was so much to say upstairs, and there were so many plans to concert fo_lopement and matrimony in the event of old Wardle continuing to be cruel, that it wanted only half an hour of dinner when Mr. Snodgrass took his fina_dieu. The ladies ran to Emily’s bedroom to dress, and the lover, taking u_is hat, walked out of the room. He had scarcely got outside the door, when h_eard Wardle’s voice talking loudly, and looking over the banisters behel_im, followed by some other gentlemen, coming straight upstairs. Knowin_othing of the house, Mr. Snodgrass in his confusion stepped hastily back int_he room he had just quitted, and passing thence into an inner apartment (Mr.
  • Wardle’s bedchamber), closed the door softly, just as the persons he ha_aught a glimpse of entered the sitting–room. These were Mr. Wardle, Mr.
  • Pickwick, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and Mr. Benjamin Allen, whom he had n_ifficulty in recognising by their voices.
  • ‘Very lucky I had the presence of mind to avoid them,’ thought Mr. Snodgras_ith a smile, and walking on tiptoe to another door near the bedside; ‘thi_pens into the same passage, and I can walk quietly and comfortably away.’
  • There was only one obstacle to his walking quietly and comfortably away, whic_as that the door was locked and the key gone.
  • ‘Let us have some of your best wine to–day, waiter,’ said old Wardle, rubbin_is 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 ha_ome in. He ventured once to whisper, ‘Waiter!’ through the keyhole, but th_robability of the wrong waiter coming to his relief, flashed upon his mind, together with a sense of the strong resemblance between his own situation an_hat in which another gentleman had been recently found in a neighbourin_otel (an account of whose misfortunes had appeared under the head of ‘Police’ in that morning’s paper), he sat himself on a portmanteau, and tremble_iolently.
  • ‘We won’t wait a minute for Perker,’ said Wardle, looking at his watch; ‘he i_lways exact. He will be here, in time, if he means to come; and if he doe_ot, it’s of no use waiting. Ha! Arabella!’
  • ‘My sister!’ exclaimed Mr. Benjamin Allen, folding her in a most romanti_mbrace.
  • ‘Oh, Ben, dear, how you do smell of tobacco,’ said Arabella, rather overcom_y 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 twelv_edical 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; ‘don’t take hol_f me again, Ben, dear, because you tumble me so.’
  • At this point of the reconciliation, Mr. Ben Allen allowed his feelings an_he cigars and porter to overcome him, and looked round upon the beholder_ith damp spectacles.
  • ‘is nothing to be said to me?’ cried Wardle, with open arms.
  • ‘A great deal,’ whispered Arabella, as she received the old gentleman’s heart_aress 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 _hall be obliged to forbid you the house. People like you, who get married i_pite of everybody, ought not to be let loose on society. But come!’ added th_ld gentleman aloud, ‘here’s the dinner; you shall sit by me. Joe; why, dam_he boy, he’s awake!’
  • To the great distress of his master, the fat boy was indeed in a state o_emarkable vigilance, his eyes being wide open, and looking as if the_ntended to remain so. There was an alacrity in his manner, too, which wa_qually unaccountable; every time his eyes met those of Emily or Arabella, h_mirked and grinned; once, Wardle could have sworn, he saw him wink.
  • This alteration in the fat boy’s demeanour originated in his increased sens_f his own importance, and the dignity he acquired from having been taken int_he confidence of the young ladies; and the smirks, and grins, and winks wer_o many condescending assurances that they might depend upon his fidelity. A_hese tokens were rather calculated to awaken suspicion than allay it, an_ere somewhat embarrassing besides, they were occasionally answered by a frow_r shake of the head from Arabella, which the fat boy, considering as hints t_e 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, ‘i_y 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 a fat boy wore.
  • ‘What’s the matter with the boy?’ exclaimed Wardle.
  • ‘Nothen’s the matter with me,’ replied Joe nervously.
  • ‘Have you been seeing any spirits?’ inquired the old gentleman.
  • ‘Or taking any?’ added Ben Allen.
  • ‘I think you’re right,’ whispered Wardle across the table. ‘He is intoxicated, I’m sure.’
  • Ben Allen replied that he thought he was; and, as that gentleman had seen _ast deal of the disease in question, Wardle was confirmed in an impressio_hich had been hovering about his mind for half an hour, and at once arrive_t the conclusion that the fat boy was drunk.
  • ‘Just keep your eye upon him for a few minutes,’ murmured Wardle. ‘We shal_oon find out whether he is or not.’
  • The unfortunate youth had only interchanged a dozen words with Mr. Snodgrass, that gentleman having implored him to make a private appeal to some friend t_elease him, and then pushed him out with the snuff–box, lest his prolonge_bsence should lead to a discovery. He ruminated a little with a mos_isturbed expression of face, and left the room in search of Mary.
  • But Mary had gone home after dressing her mistress, and the fat boy came bac_gain more disturbed than before.
  • Wardle and Mr. Ben Allen exchanged glances. ‘Joe!’ said Wardle.
  • ‘Yes, sir.’
  • ‘What did you go away for?’
  • The fat boy looked hopelessly in the face of everybody at table, and stammere_ut that he didn’t know.
  • ‘Oh,’ said Wardle, ‘you don’t know, eh? Take this cheese to Mr. Pickwick.’
  • Now, Mr. Pickwick being in the very best health and spirits, had been makin_imself perfectly delightful all dinner–time, and was at this moment engage_n an energetic conversation with Emily and Mr. Winkle; bowing his head, courteously, in the emphasis of his discourse, gently waving his left hand t_end force to his observations, and all glowing with placid smiles. He took _iece of cheese from the plate, and was on the point of turning round to rene_he conversation, when the fat boy, stooping so as to bring his head on _evel with that of Mr. Pickwick, pointed with his thumb over his shoulder, an_ade the most horrible and hideous face that was ever seen out of a Christma_antomime.
  • ‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Pickwick, starting, ‘what a very—Eh?’ He stopped, for th_at boy had drawn himself up, and was, or pretended to be, fast asleep.
  • ‘What’s the matter?’ inquired Wardle.
  • ‘This is such an extremely singular lad!’ replied Mr. Pickwick, lookin_neasily at the boy. ‘It seems an odd thing to say, but upon my word I a_fraid that, at times, he is a little deranged.’
  • ‘Oh! Mr. Pickwick, pray don’t say so,’ cried Emily and Arabella, both at once.
  • ‘I am not certain, of course,’ said Mr. Pickwick, amidst profound silence an_ooks of general dismay; ‘but his manner to me this moment really was ver_larming. Oh!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, suddenly jumping up with a shor_cream. ‘I beg your pardon, ladies, but at that moment he ran some shar_nstrument into my leg. Really, he is not safe.’
  • ‘He’s drunk,’ roared old Wardle passionately. ‘Ring the bell! Call th_aiters! He’s drunk.’
  • ‘I ain’t,’ said the fat boy, falling on his knees as his master seized him b_he collar. ‘I ain’t drunk.’
  • ‘Then you’re mad; that’s worse. Call the waiters,’ said the old gentleman.
  • ‘I ain’t mad; I’m sensible,’ rejoined the fat boy, beginning to cry.
  • ‘Then, what the devil did you run sharp instruments into Mr. Pickwick’s leg_or?’ inquired Wardle angrily.
  • ‘He wouldn’t look at me,’ replied the boy. ‘I wanted to speak to him.’
  • ‘What did you want to say?’ asked half a dozen voices at once.
  • The fat boy gasped, looked at the bedroom door, gasped again, and wiped tw_ears away with the knuckle of each of his forefingers.
  • ‘What did you want to say?’ demanded Wardle, shaking him.
  • ‘Stop!’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘allow me. What did you wish to communicate to me, my poor boy?’
  • ‘I want to whisper to you,’ replied the fat boy.
  • ‘You want to bite his ear off, I suppose,’ said Wardle. ‘Don’t come near him; he’s vicious; ring the bell, and let him be taken downstairs.’
  • Just as Mr. Winkle caught the bell–rope in his hand, it was arrested by _eneral expression of astonishment; the captive lover, his face burning wit_onfusion, suddenly walked in from the bedroom, and made a comprehensive bo_o the company.
  • ‘Hollo!’ cried Wardle, releasing the fat boy’s collar, and staggering back.
  • ‘What’s this?’
  • ‘I have been concealed in the next room, sir, since you returned,’ explaine_r. Snodgrass.
  • ‘Emily, my girl,’ said Wardle reproachfully, ‘I detest meanness and deceit; this is unjustifiable and indelicate in the highest degree. I don’t deserv_his at your hands, Emily, indeed!’
  • ‘Dear papa,’ said Emily, ‘Arabella knows—everybody here knows—Joe knows—that _as no party to this concealment. Augustus, for Heaven’s sake, explain it!’
  • Mr. Snodgrass, who had only waited for a hearing, at once recounted how he ha_een placed in his then distressing predicament; how the fear of giving ris_o domestic dissensions had alone prompted him to avoid Mr. Wardle on hi_ntrance; how he merely meant to depart by another door, but, finding i_ocked, had been compelled to stay against his will. It was a painfu_ituation to be placed in; but he now regretted it the less, inasmuch as i_fforded him an opportunity of acknowledging, before their mutual friends, that he loved Mr. Wardle’s daughter deeply and sincerely; that he was proud t_vow that the feeling was mutual; and that if thousands of miles were place_etween them, or oceans rolled their waters, he could never for an instan_orget those happy days, when first—et cetera, et cetera.
  • Having delivered himself to this effect, Mr. Snodgrass bowed again, looke_nto the crown of his hat, and stepped towards the door.
  • ‘Stop!’ shouted Wardle. ‘Why, in the name of all that’s—’
  • ‘Inflammable,’ mildly suggested Mr. Pickwick, who thought something worse wa_oming.
  • ‘Well—that’s inflammable,’ said Wardle, adopting the substitute; ‘couldn’t yo_ay all this to me in the first instance?’
  • ‘Or confide in me?’ added Mr. Pickwick.
  • ‘Dear, dear,’ said Arabella, taking up the defence, ‘what is the use of askin_ll that now, especially when you know you had set your covetous old heart o_ richer son–in–law, and are so wild and fierce besides, that everybody i_fraid of you, except me? Shake hands with him, and order him some dinner, fo_oodness gracious’ sake, for he looks half starved; and pray have your wine u_t once, for you’ll not be tolerable until you have taken two bottles a_east.’
  • The worthy old gentleman pulled Arabella’s ear, kissed her without th_mallest scruple, kissed his daughter also with great affection, and shook Mr.
  • Snodgrass warmly by the hand.
  • ‘She is right on one point at all events,’ said the old gentleman cheerfully.
  • ‘Ring for the wine!’
  • The wine came, and Perker came upstairs at the same moment. Mr. Snodgrass ha_inner at a side table, and, when he had despatched it, drew his chair nex_mily, without the smallest opposition on the old gentleman’s part.
  • The evening was excellent. Little Mr. Perker came out wonderfully, tol_arious comic stories, and sang a serious song which was almost as funny a_he anecdotes. Arabella was very charming, Mr. Wardle very jovial, Mr.
  • Pickwick very harmonious, Mr. Ben Allen very uproarious, the lovers ver_ilent, Mr. Winkle very talkative, and all of them very happy.