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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 39

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 39


During the whole of next day, Sam kept Mr. Winkle steadily in
sight, fully determined not to take his eyes off him for one
instant, until he should receive express instructions from the
fountain-head. However disagreeable Sam's very close watch and
great vigilance were to Mr. Winkle, he thought it better to bear
with them, than, by any act of violent opposition, to hazard
being carried away by force, which Mr. Weller more than once
strongly hinted was the line of conduct that a strict sense of duty
prompted him to pursue. There is little reason to doubt that Sam
would very speedily have quieted his scruples, by bearing
Mr. Winkle back to Bath, bound hand and foot, had not Mr.
Pickwick's prompt attention to the note, which Dowler had
undertaken to deliver, forestalled any such proceeding. In
short, at eight o'clock in the evening, Mr. Pickwick himself
walked into the coffee-room of the Bush Tavern, and told Sam
with a smile, to his very great relief, that he had done quite
right, and it was unnecessary for him to mount guard any longer.

'I thought it better to come myself,' said Mr. Pickwick,
addressing Mr. Winkle, as Sam disencumbered him of his great-
coat and travelling-shawl, 'to ascertain, before I gave my consent
to Sam's employment in this matter, that you are quite in earnest
and serious, with respect to this young lady.'

'Serious, from my heart--from my soul!'returned Mr. Winkle,
with great energy.

'Remember,' said Mr. Pickwick, with beaming eyes, 'we met
her at our excellent and hospitable friend's, Winkle. It would be
an ill return to tamper lightly, and without due consideration,
with this young lady's affections. I'll not allow that, sir. I'll not
allow it.'

'I have no such intention, indeed,' exclaimed Mr. Winkle
warmly. 'I have considered the matter well, for a long time, and
I feel that my happiness is bound up in her.'

'That's wot we call tying it up in a small parcel, sir,' interposed
Mr. Weller, with an agreeable smile.

Mr. Winkle looked somewhat stern at this interruption, and
Mr. Pickwick angrily requested his attendant not to jest with one
of the best feelings of our nature; to which Sam replied, 'That he
wouldn't, if he was aware on it; but there were so many on 'em, that
he hardly know'd which was the best ones wen he heerd 'em mentioned.'

Mr. Winkle then recounted what had passed between himself
and Mr. Ben Allen, relative to Arabella; stated that his object was
to gain an interview with the young lady, and make a formal
disclosure of his passion; and declared his conviction, founded
on certain dark hints and mutterings of the aforesaid Ben, that,
wherever she was at present immured, it was somewhere near the
Downs. And this was his whole stock of knowledge or suspicion
on the subject.

With this very slight clue to guide him, it was determined that
Mr. Weller should start next morning on an expedition of
discovery; it was also arranged that Mr. Pickwick and Mr.
Winkle, who were less confident of their powers, should parade
the town meanwhile, and accidentally drop in upon Mr. Bob
Sawyer in the course of the day, in the hope of seeing or hearing
something of the young lady's whereabouts.

Accordingly, next morning, Sam Weller issued forth upon his
quest, in no way daunted by the very discouraging prospect
before him; and away he walked, up one street and down another
--we were going to say, up one hill and down another, only it's
all uphill at Clifton--without meeting with anything or anybody
that tended to throw the faintest light on the matter in hand.
Many were the colloquies into which Sam entered with grooms
who were airing horses on roads, and nursemaids who were
airing children in lanes; but nothing could Sam elicit from either
the first-mentioned or the last, which bore the slightest reference
to the object of his artfully-prosecuted inquiries. There were a
great many young ladies in a great many houses, the greater part
whereof were shrewdly suspected by the male and female
domestics to be deeply attached to somebody, or perfectly ready
to become so, if opportunity afforded. But as none among these
young ladies was Miss Arabella Allen, the information left
Sam at exactly the old point of wisdom at which he had stood before.

Sam struggled across the Downs against a good high wind,
wondering whether it was always necessary to hold your hat on
with both hands in that part of the country, and came to a shady
by-place, about which were sprinkled several little villas of quiet
and secluded appearance. Outside a stable door at the bottom of
a long back lane without a thoroughfare, a groom in undress was
idling about, apparently persuading himself that he was doing
something with a spade and a wheel-barrow. We may remark, in
this place, that we have scarcely ever seen a groom near a stable,
in his lazy moments, who has not been, to a greater or less extent,
the victim of this singular delusion.

Sam thought he might as well talk to this groom as to any one
else, especially as he was very tired with walking, and there was a
good large stone just opposite the wheel-barrow; so he strolled
down the lane, and, seating himself on the stone, opened a
conversation with the ease and freedom for which he was remarkable.

'Mornin', old friend,' said Sam.

'Arternoon, you mean,' replied the groom, casting a surly look
at Sam.

'You're wery right, old friend,' said Sam; 'I DO mean arternoon.
How are you?'

'Why, I don't find myself much the better for seeing of you,'
replied the ill-tempered groom.

'That's wery odd--that is,' said Sam, 'for you look so uncommon
cheerful, and seem altogether so lively, that it does vun's
heart good to see you.'

The surly groom looked surlier still at this, but not sufficiently
so to produce any effect upon Sam, who immediately inquired,
with a countenance of great anxiety, whether his master's name
was not Walker.

'No, it ain't,' said the groom.

'Nor Brown, I s'pose?' said Sam.

'No, it ain't.'

'Nor Vilson?'

'No; nor that @ither,' said the groom.

'Vell,' replied Sam, 'then I'm mistaken, and he hasn't got the
honour o' my acquaintance, which I thought he had. Don't wait
here out o' compliment to me,' said Sam, as the groom wheeled
in the barrow, and prepared to shut the gate. 'Ease afore
ceremony, old boy; I'll excuse you.'

'I'd knock your head off for half-a-crown,' said the surly
groom, bolting one half of the gate.

'Couldn't afford to have it done on those terms,' rejoined Sam.
'It 'ud be worth a life's board wages at least, to you, and 'ud be
cheap at that. Make my compliments indoors. Tell 'em not to
vait dinner for me, and say they needn't mind puttin' any by, for
it'll be cold afore I come in.'

In reply to this, the groom waxing very wroth, muttered a
desire to damage somebody's person; but disappeared without
carrying it into execution, slamming the door angrily after him,
and wholly unheeding Sam's affectionate request, that he would
leave him a lock of his hair before he went.

Sam continued to sit on the large stone, meditating upon what
was best to be done, and revolving in his mind a plan for knocking
at all the doors within five miles of Bristol, taking them at a
hundred and fifty or two hundred a day, and endeavouring to
find Miss Arabella by that expedient, when accident all of a
sudden threw in his way what he might have sat there for a
twelvemonth and yet not found without it.

Into the lane where he sat, there opened three or four garden
gates, belonging to as many houses, which though detached from
each other, were only separated by their gardens. As these were
large and long, and well planted with trees, the houses were not
only at some distance off, but the greater part of them were
nearly concealed from view. Sam was sitting with his eyes fixed
upon the dust-heap outside the next gate to that by which the
groom had disappeared, profoundly turning over in his mind the
difficulties of his present undertaking, when the gate opened, and
a female servant came out into the lane to shake some bedside carpets.

Sam was so very busy with his own thoughts, that it is probable
he would have taken no more notice of the young woman than
just raising his head and remarking that she had a very neat and
pretty figure, if his feelings of gallantry had not been most
strongly roused by observing that she had no one to help her, and
that the carpets seemed too heavy for her single strength. Mr.
Weller was a gentleman of great gallantry in his own way, and he
no sooner remarked this circumstance than he hastily rose from
the large stone, and advanced towards her.

'My dear,' said Sam, sliding up with an air of great respect,
'you'll spile that wery pretty figure out o' all perportion if you
shake them carpets by yourself. Let me help you.'

The young lady, who had been coyly affecting not to know
that a gentleman was so near, turned round as Sam spoke--no
doubt (indeed she said so, afterwards) to decline this offer from a
perfect stranger--when instead of speaking, she started back, and
uttered a half-suppressed scream. Sam was scarcely less staggered,
for in the countenance of the well-shaped female servant, he
beheld the very features of his valentine, the pretty housemaid
from Mr. Nupkins's.

'Wy, Mary, my dear!' said Sam.

'Lauk, Mr. Weller,' said Mary, 'how you do frighten one!'

Sam made no verbal answer to this complaint, nor can we
precisely say what reply he did make. We merely know that after
a short pause Mary said, 'Lor, do adun, Mr. Weller!' and that his
hat had fallen off a few moments before--from both of which
tokens we should be disposed to infer that one kiss, or more, had
passed between the parties.

'Why, how did you come here?' said Mary, when the conversation
to which this interruption had been offered, was

'O' course I came to look arter you, my darlin',' replied Mr.
Weller; for once permitting his passion to get the better of
his veracity.

'And how did you know I was here?' inquired Mary. 'Who
could have told you that I took another service at Ipswich, and
that they afterwards moved all the way here? Who COULD have
told you that, Mr. Weller?'

'Ah, to be sure,' said Sam, with a cunning look, 'that's the
pint. Who could ha' told me?'

'It wasn't Mr. Muzzle, was it?' inquired Mary.

'Oh, no.' replied Sam, with a solemn shake of the head, 'it
warn't him.'

'It must have been the cook,' said Mary.

'O' course it must,' said Sam.

'Well, I never heard the like of that!' exclaimed Mary.

'No more did I,' said Sam. 'But Mary, my dear'--here Sam's
manner grew extremely affectionate--'Mary, my dear, I've got
another affair in hand as is wery pressin'. There's one o' my
governor's friends--Mr. Winkle, you remember him?'

'Him in the green coat?' said Mary. 'Oh, yes, I remember him.'

'Well,' said Sam, 'he's in a horrid state o' love; reg'larly
comfoozled, and done over vith it.'

'Lor!' interposed Mary.

'Yes,' said Sam; 'but that's nothin' if we could find out the
young 'ooman;' and here Sam, with many digressions upon the
personal beauty of Mary, and the unspeakable tortures he had
experienced since he last saw her, gave a faithful account of
Mr. Winkle's present predicament.

'Well,' said Mary, 'I never did!'

'O' course not,' said Sam, 'and nobody never did, nor never
vill neither; and here am I a-walkin' about like the wandering
Jew--a sportin' character you have perhaps heerd on Mary, my
dear, as vos alvays doin' a match agin' time, and never vent to
sleep--looking arter this here Miss Arabella Allen.'

'Miss who?' said Mary, in great astonishment.

'Miss Arabella Allen,' said Sam.

'Goodness gracious!' said Mary, pointing to the garden door
which the sulky groom had locked after him. 'Why, it's that very
house; she's been living there these six weeks. Their upper house-
maid, which is lady's-maid too, told me all about it over the
wash-house palin's before the family was out of bed, one mornin'.'

'Wot, the wery next door to you?' said Sam.

'The very next,' replied Mary.

Mr. Weller was so deeply overcome on receiving this intelligence
that he found it absolutely necessary to cling to his fair
informant for support; and divers little love passages had passed
between them, before he was sufficiently collected to return to
the subject.

'Vell,' said Sam at length, 'if this don't beat cock-fightin'
nothin' never vill, as the lord mayor said, ven the chief secretary
o' state proposed his missis's health arter dinner. That wery next
house! Wy, I've got a message to her as I've been a-trying all day
to deliver.'

'Ah,' said Mary, 'but you can't deliver it now, because she only
walks in the garden in the evening, and then only for a very little
time; she never goes out, without the old lady.'

Sam ruminated for a few moments, and finally hit upon the
following plan of operations; that he should return just at dusk
--the time at which Arabella invariably took her walk--and,
being admitted by Mary into the garden of the house to which she
belonged, would contrive to scramble up the wall, beneath the
overhanging boughs of a large pear-tree, which would effectually
screen him from observation; would there deliver his message,
and arrange, if possible, an interview on behalf of Mr. Winkle for
the ensuing evening at the same hour. Having made this arrangement
with great despatch, he assisted Mary in the long-deferred
occupation of shaking the carpets.

It is not half as innocent a thing as it looks, that shaking little
pieces of carpet--at least, there may be no great harm in the
shaking, but the folding is a very insidious process. So long as the
shaking lasts, and the two parties are kept the carpet's length
apart, it is as innocent an amusement as can well be devised;
but when the folding begins, and the distance between them gets
gradually lessened from one half its former length to a quarter,
and then to an eighth, and then to a sixteenth, and then to a
thirty-second, if the carpet be long enough, it becomes dangerous.
We do not know, to a nicety, how many pieces of carpet were
folded in this instance, but we can venture to state that as many
pieces as there were, so many times did Sam kiss the pretty housemaid.

Mr. Weller regaled himself with moderation at the nearest
tavern until it was nearly dusk, and then returned to the lane
without the thoroughfare. Having been admitted into the
garden by Mary, and having received from that lady sundry
admonitions concerning the safety of his limbs and neck, Sam
mounted into the pear-tree, to wait until Arabella should come
into sight.

He waited so long without this anxiously-expected event
occurring, that he began to think it was not going to take place
at all, when he heard light footsteps upon the gravel, and
immediately afterwards beheld Arabella walking pensively down
the garden. As soon as she came nearly below the tree, Sam
began, by way of gently indicating his presence, to make sundry
diabolical noises similar to those which would probably be
natural to a person of middle age who had been afflicted with a
combination of inflammatory sore throat, croup, and whooping-
cough, from his earliest infancy.

Upon this, the young lady cast a hurried glance towards the
spot whence the dreadful sounds proceeded; and her previous
alarm being not at all diminished when she saw a man among the
branches, she would most certainly have decamped, and alarmed
the house, had not fear fortunately deprived her of the power of
moving, and caused her to sink down on a garden seat, which
happened by good luck to be near at hand.

'She's a-goin' off,' soliloquised Sam in great perplexity. 'Wot
a thing it is, as these here young creeturs will go a-faintin' avay
just ven they oughtn't to. Here, young 'ooman, Miss Sawbones,
Mrs. Vinkle, don't!'

Whether it was the magic of Mr. Winkle's name, or the coolness
of the open air, or some recollection of Mr. Weller's voice,
that revived Arabella, matters not. She raised her head and
languidly inquired, 'Who's that, and what do you want?'

'Hush,' said Sam, swinging himself on to the wall, and crouching
there in as small a compass as he could reduce himself to,
'only me, miss, only me.'

'Mr. Pickwick's servant!' said Arabella earnestly.

'The wery same, miss,' replied Sam. 'Here's Mr. Vinkle
reg'larly sewed up vith desperation, miss.'

'Ah!' said Arabella, drawing nearer the wall.

'Ah, indeed,' said Sam. 'Ve thought ve should ha' been
obliged to strait-veskit him last night; he's been a-ravin' all day;
and he says if he can't see you afore to-morrow night's over, he
vishes he may be somethin' unpleasanted if he don't drownd hisself.'

'Oh, no, no, Mr. Weller!' said Arabella, clasping her hands.

'That's wot he says, miss,' replied Sam coolly. 'He's a man of
his word, and it's my opinion he'll do it, miss. He's heerd all
about you from the sawbones in barnacles.'

'From my brother!' said Arabella, having some faint recognition
of Sam's description.

'I don't rightly know which is your brother, miss,' replied Sam.
'Is it the dirtiest vun o' the two?'

'Yes, yes, Mr. Weller,' returned Arabella, 'go on. Make haste, pray.'

'Well, miss,' said Sam, 'he's heerd all about it from him; and
it's the gov'nor's opinion that if you don't see him wery quick,
the sawbones as we've been a-speakin' on, 'ull get as much extra
lead in his head as'll rayther damage the dewelopment o' the
orgins if they ever put it in spirits artervards.'

'Oh, what can I do to prevent these dreadful quarrels!'
exclaimed Arabella.

'It's the suspicion of a priory 'tachment as is the cause of it all,'
replied Sam. 'You'd better see him, miss.'

'But how?--where?'cried Arabella. 'I dare not leave the house
alone. My brother is so unkind, so unreasonable! I know how
strange my talking thus to you may appear, Mr. Weller, but I am
very, very unhappy--' and here poor Arabella wept so bitterly
that Sam grew chivalrous.

'It may seem wery strange talkin' to me about these here
affairs, miss,' said Sam, with great vehemence; 'but all I can say
is, that I'm not only ready but villin' to do anythin' as'll make
matters agreeable; and if chuckin' either o' them sawboneses out
o' winder 'ull do it, I'm the man.' As Sam Weller said this, he
tucked up his wristbands, at the imminent hazard of falling off the
wall in so doing, to intimate his readiness to set to work immediately.

Flattering as these professions of good feeling were, Arabella
resolutely declined (most unaccountably, as Sam thought) to
avail herself of them. For some time she strenuously refused to
grant Mr. Winkle the interview Sam had so pathetically requested;
but at length, when the conversation threatened to be
interrupted by the unwelcome arrival of a third party, she
hurriedly gave him to understand, with many professions of
gratitude, that it was barely possible she might be in the garden
an hour later, next evening. Sam understood this perfectly well;
and Arabella, bestowing upon him one of her sweetest smiles,
tripped gracefully away, leaving Mr. Weller in a state of very
great admiration of her charms, both personal and mental.

Having descended in safety from the wall, and not forgotten
to devote a few moments to his own particular business in the
same department, Mr. Weller then made the best of his way back
to the Bush, where his prolonged absence had occasioned much
speculation and some alarm.

'We must be careful,' said Mr. Pickwick, after listening
attentively to Sam's tale, 'not for our sakes, but for that of the
young lady. We must be very cautious.'

'WE!' said Mr. Winkle, with marked emphasis.

Mr. Pickwick's momentary look of indignation at the tone of
this remark, subsided into his characteristic expression of
benevolence, as he replied--

'WE, Sir! I shall accompany you.'

'You!' said Mr. Winkle.

'I,' replied Mr. Pickwick mildly. 'In affording you this interview,
the young lady has taken a natural, perhaps, but still a
very imprudent step. If I am present at the meeting--a mutual
friend, who is old enough to be the father of both parties--the
voice of calumny can never be raised against her hereafter.'

Mr. Pickwick's eyes lightened with honest exultation at his
own foresight, as he spoke thus. Mr. Winkle was touched by this
little trait of his delicate respect for the young PROTEGEE of his
friend, and took his hand with a feeling of regard, akin to veneration.

'You SHALL go,' said Mr. Winkle.

'I will,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Sam, have my greatcoat and shawl
ready, and order a conveyance to be at the door to-morrow
evening, rather earlier than is absolutely necessary, in order that
we may be in good time.'

Mr. Weller touched his hat, as an earnest of his obedience,
and withdrew to make all needful preparations for the expedition.

The coach was punctual to the time appointed; and Mr. Weller,
after duly installing Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle inside, took
his seat on the box by the driver. They alighted, as had been
agreed on, about a quarter of a mile from the place of rendezvous,
and desiring the coachman to await their return, proceeded the
remaining distance on foot.

It was at this stage of the undertaking that Mr. Pickwick, with
many smiles and various other indications of great self-satisfaction,
produced from one of his coat pockets a dark lantern, with
which he had specially provided himself for the occasion, and the
great mechanical beauty of which he proceeded to explain to
Mr. Winkle, as they walked along, to the no small surprise of the
few stragglers they met.

'I should have been the better for something of this kind, in
my last garden expedition, at night; eh, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick,
looking good-humouredly round at his follower, who was
trudging behind.

'Wery nice things, if they're managed properly, Sir,' replied
Mr. Weller; 'but wen you don't want to be seen, I think they're
more useful arter the candle's gone out, than wen it's alight.'

Mr. Pickwick appeared struck by Sam's remarks, for he put
the lantern into his pocket again, and they walked on in silence.

'Down here, Sir,' said Sam. 'Let me lead the way. This is the
lane, Sir.'

Down the lane they went, and dark enough it was. Mr. Pickwick
brought out the lantern, once or twice, as they groped their
way along, and threw a very brilliant little tunnel of light before
them, about a foot in diameter. It was very pretty to look at, but
seemed to have the effect of rendering surrounding objects
rather darker than before.

At length they arrived at the large stone. Here Sam recommended
his master and Mr. Winkle to seat themselves, while
he reconnoitred, and ascertained whether Mary was yet in waiting.

After an absence of five or ten minutes, Sam returned to say
that the gate was opened, and all quiet. Following him with
stealthy tread, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle soon found themselves
in the garden. Here everybody said, 'Hush!' a good many
times; and that being done, no one seemed to have any very
distinct apprehension of what was to be done next.

'Is Miss Allen in the garden yet, Mary?' inquired Mr. Winkle,
much agitated.

'I don't know, sir,' replied the pretty housemaid. 'The best
thing to be done, sir, will be for Mr. Weller to give you a hoist up
into the tree, and perhaps Mr. Pickwick will have the goodness
to see that nobody comes up the lane, while I watch at the other
end of the garden. Goodness gracious, what's that?'

'That 'ere blessed lantern 'ull be the death on us all,' exclaimed
Sam peevishly. 'Take care wot you're a-doin' on, sir; you're
a-sendin' a blaze o' light, right into the back parlour winder.'

'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick, turning hastily aside, 'I didn't
mean to do that.'

'Now, it's in the next house, sir,' remonstrated Sam.

'Bless my heart!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning round again.

'Now, it's in the stable, and they'll think the place is afire,' said
Sam. 'Shut it up, sir, can't you?'

'It's the most extraordinary lantern I ever met with, in all my
life!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, greatly bewildered by the effects
he had so unintentionally produced. 'I never saw such a powerful

'It'll be vun too powerful for us, if you keep blazin' avay in
that manner, sir,' replied Sam, as Mr. Pickwick, after various
unsuccessful efforts, managed to close the slide. 'There's the
young lady's footsteps. Now, Mr. Winkle, sir, up vith you.'

'Stop, stop!' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I must speak to her first.
Help me up, Sam.'

'Gently, Sir,' said Sam, planting his head against the wall, and
making a platform of his back. 'Step atop o' that 'ere flower-pot,
Sir. Now then, up vith you.'

'I'm afraid I shall hurt you, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Never mind me, Sir,' replied Sam. 'Lend him a hand, Mr.
Winkle. sir. Steady, sir, steady! That's the time o' day!'

As Sam spoke, Mr. Pickwick, by exertions almost supernatural
in a gentleman of his years and weight, contrived to get upon
Sam's back; and Sam gently raising himself up, and Mr. Pickwick
holding on fast by the top of the wall, while Mr. Winkle
clasped him tight by the legs, they contrived by these means to
bring his spectacles just above the level of the coping.

'My dear,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking over the wall, and
catching sight of Arabella, on the other side, 'don't be frightened,
my dear, it's only me.'
'Oh, pray go away, Mr. Pickwick,' said Arabella. 'Tell them all
to go away. I am so dreadfully frightened. Dear, dear Mr.
Pickwick, don't stop there. You'll fall down and kill yourself, I
know you will.'

'Now, pray don't alarm yourself, my dear,' said Mr. Pickwick
soothingly. 'There is not the least cause for fear, I assure you.
Stand firm, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking down.

'All right, sir,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Don't be longer than you
can conweniently help, sir. You're rayther heavy.'

'Only another moment, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'I merely wished you to know, my dear, that I should not have
allowed my young friend to see you in this clandestine way, if the
situation in which you are placed had left him any alternative;
and, lest the impropriety of this step should cause you any
uneasiness, my love, it may be a satisfaction to you, to know that
I am present. That's all, my dear.'

'Indeed, Mr. Pickwick, I am very much obliged to you for your
kindness and consideration,' replied Arabella, drying her tears
with her handkerchief. She would probably have said much more,
had not Mr. Pickwick's head disappeared with great swiftness, in
consequence of a false step on Sam's shoulder which brought
him suddenly to the ground. He was up again in an instant
however; and bidding Mr. Winkle make haste and get the interview
over, ran out into the lane to keep watch, with all the
courage and ardour of youth. Mr. Winkle himself, inspired by
the occasion, was on the wall in a moment, merely pausing to
request Sam to be careful of his master.

'I'll take care on him, sir,' replied Sam. 'Leave him to me.'

'Where is he? What's he doing, Sam?' inquired Mr. Winkle.

'Bless his old gaiters,' rejoined Sam, looking out at the garden
door. 'He's a-keepin' guard in the lane vith that 'ere dark lantern,
like a amiable Guy Fawkes! I never see such a fine creetur in my
days. Blessed if I don't think his heart must ha' been born five-
and-twenty year arter his body, at least!'

Mr. Winkle stayed not to hear the encomium upon his friend.
He had dropped from the wall; thrown himself at Arabella's
feet; and by this time was pleading the sincerity of his passion
with an eloquence worthy even of Mr. Pickwick himself.

While these things were going on in the open air, an elderly
gentleman of scientific attainments was seated in his library, two
or three houses off, writing a philosophical treatise, and ever and
anon moistening his clay and his labours with a glass of claret
from a venerable-looking bottle which stood by his side. In the
agonies of composition, the elderly gentleman looked sometimes
at the carpet, sometimes at the ceiling, and sometimes at the wall;
and when neither carpet, ceiling, nor wall afforded the requisite
degree of inspiration, he looked out of the window.

In one of these pauses of invention, the scientific gentleman
was gazing abstractedly on the thick darkness outside, when he
was very much surprised by observing a most brilliant light glide
through the air, at a short distance above the ground, and almost
instantaneously vanish. After a short time the phenomenon was
repeated, not once or twice, but several times; at last the scientific
gentleman, laying down his pen, began to consider to what
natural causes these appearances were to be assigned.

They were not meteors; they were too low. They were not
glow-worms; they were too high. They were not will-o'-the-
wisps; they were not fireflies; they were not fireworks. What could
they be? Some extraordinary and wonderful phenomenon of
nature, which no philosopher had ever seen before; something
which it had been reserved for him alone to discover, and which
he should immortalise his name by chronicling for the benefit of
posterity. Full of this idea, the scientific gentleman seized his
pen again, and committed to paper sundry notes of these
unparalleled appearances, with the date, day, hour, minute, and
precise second at which they were visible: all of which were to
form the data of a voluminous treatise of great research and deep
learning, which should astonish all the atmospherical wiseacres
that ever drew breath in any part of the civilised globe.

He threw himself back in his easy-chair, wrapped in
contemplations of his future greatness. The mysterious light appeared
more brilliantly than before, dancing, to all appearance, up and
down the lane, crossing from side to side, and moving in an
orbit as eccentric as comets themselves.

The scientific gentleman was a bachelor. He had no wife to call
in and astonish, so he rang the bell for his servant.

'Pruffle,' said the scientific gentleman, 'there is something very
extraordinary in the air to-night? Did you see that?' said the
scientific gentleman, pointing out of the window, as the light
again became visible.

'Yes, I did, Sir.'

'What do you think of it, Pruffle?'

'Think of it, Sir?'

'Yes. You have been bred up in this country. What should you
say was the cause for those lights, now?'

The scientific gentleman smilingly anticipated Pruffle's reply
that he could assign no cause for them at all. Pruffle meditated.

'I should say it was thieves, Sir,' said Pruffle at length.

'You're a fool, and may go downstairs,' said the scientific gentleman.

'Thank you, Sir,' said Pruffle. And down he went.

But the scientific gentleman could not rest under the idea of the
ingenious treatise he had projected being lost to the world, which
must inevitably be the case if the speculation of the ingenious
Mr. Pruffle were not stifled in its birth. He put on his hat and
walked quickly down the garden, determined to investigate the
matter to the very bottom.

Now, shortly before the scientific gentleman walked out into
the garden, Mr. Pickwick had run down the lane as fast as he
could, to convey a false alarm that somebody was coming that
way; occasionally drawing back the slide of the dark lantern to
keep himself from the ditch. The alarm was no sooner given,
than Mr. Winkle scrambled back over the wall, and Arabella ran
into the house; the garden gate was shut, and the three adventurers
were making the best of their way down the lane, when
they were startled by the scientific gentleman unlocking his
garden gate.

'Hold hard,' whispered Sam, who was, of course, the first of
the party. 'Show a light for just vun second, Sir.'

Mr. Pickwick did as he was desired, and Sam, seeing a man's
head peeping out very cautiously within half a yard of his own,
gave it a gentle tap with his clenched fist, which knocked it, with
a hollow sound, against the gate. Having performed this feat with
great suddenness and dexterity, Mr. Weller caught Mr. Pickwick
up on his back, and followed Mr. Winkle down the lane at a pace
which, considering the burden he carried, was perfectly astonishing.

'Have you got your vind back agin, Sir,' inquired Sam, when
they had reached the end.

'Quite. Quite, now,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Then come along, Sir,' said Sam, setting his master on his feet
again. 'Come betveen us, sir. Not half a mile to run. Think you're
vinnin' a cup, sir. Now for it.'

Thus encouraged, Mr. Pickwick made the very best use of his
legs. It may be confidently stated that a pair of black gaiters
never got over the ground in better style than did those of Mr.
Pickwick on this memorable occasion.

The coach was waiting, the horses were fresh, the roads were
good, and the driver was willing. The whole party arrived in
safety at the Bush before Mr. Pickwick had recovered his breath.

'in with you at once, sir,' said Sam, as he helped his master out.
'Don't stop a second in the street, arter that 'ere exercise. Beg
your pardon, sir,'continued Sam, touching his hat as Mr. Winkle
descended, 'hope there warn't a priory 'tachment, sir?'

Mr. Winkle grasped his humble friend by the hand, and
whispered in his ear, 'It's all right, Sam; quite right.' Upon which
Mr. Weller struck three distinct blows upon his nose in token of
intelligence, smiled, winked, and proceeded to put the steps up,
with a countenance expressive of lively satisfaction.

As to the scientific gentleman, he demonstrated, in a masterly
treatise, that these wonderful lights were the effect of electricity;
and clearly proved the same by detailing how a flash of fire
danced before his eyes when he put his head out of the gate, and
how he received a shock which stunned him for a quarter of an
hour afterwards; which demonstration delighted all the scientific
associations beyond measure, and caused him to be considered a
light of science ever afterwards.

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