The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 38-39

'Glad of it,' said Dowler. 'I woke this morning. I had forgotten my threat. I laughed at the accident. I felt friendly. I said so.'

'To whom?' inquired Mr. Winkle.

'To Mrs. Dowler. "You made a vow," said she. "I did," said I. "It was a rash one," said she. "It was," said I. "I'll apologise. Where is he?"'

'Who?' inquired Mr. Winkle.

'You,' replied Dowler. 'I went downstairs. You were not to be found. Pickwick looked gloomy. Shook his head. Hoped no violence would be committed. I saw it all. You felt yourself insulted. You had gone, for a friend perhaps. Possibly for pistols. "High spirit," said I. "I admire him."'

Mr. Winkle coughed, and beginning to see how the land lay, assumed a look of importance.

'I left a note for you,' resumed Dowler. 'I said I was sorry. So I was. Pressing business called me here. You were not satisfied. You followed. You required a verbal explanation. You were right. It's all over now. My business is finished. I go back to-morrow. Join me.'

As Dowler progressed in his explanation, Mr. Winkle's countenance grew more and more dignified. The mysterious nature of the commencement of their conversation was explained; Mr. Dowler had as great an objection to duelling as himself; in short, this blustering and awful personage was one of the most egregious cowards in existence, and interpreting Mr. Winkle's absence through the medium of his own fears, had taken the same step as himself, and prudently retired until all excitement of feeling should have subsided.

As the real state of the case dawned upon Mr. Winkle's mind, he looked very terrible, and said he was perfectly satisfied; but at the same time, said so with an air that left Mr. Dowler no alternative but to infer that if he had not been, something most horrible and destructive must inevitably have occurred. Mr. Dowler appeared to be impressed with a becoming sense of Mr. Winkle's magnanimity and condescension; and the two belligerents parted for the night, with many protestations of eternal friendship.

About half-past twelve o'clock, when Mr. Winkle had been revelling some twenty minutes in the full luxury of his first sleep, he was suddenly awakened by a loud knocking at his chamber door, which, being repeated with increased vehemence, caused him to start up in bed, and inquire who was there, and what the matter was.

'Please, Sir, here's a young man which says he must see you directly,' responded the voice of the chambermaid.

'A young man!' exclaimed Mr. Winkle.

'No mistake about that 'ere, Sir,' replied another voice through the keyhole; 'and if that wery same interestin' young creetur ain't let in vithout delay, it's wery possible as his legs vill enter afore his countenance.' The young man gave a gentle kick at one of the lower panels of the door, after he had given utterance to this hint, as if to add force and point to the remark.

'Is that you, Sam?' inquired Mr. Winkle, springing out of bed.

'Quite unpossible to identify any gen'l'm'n vith any degree o' mental satisfaction, vithout lookin' at him, Sir,' replied the voice dogmatically.

Mr. Winkle, not much doubting who the young man was, unlocked the door; which he had no sooner done than Mr. Samuel Weller entered with great precipitation, and carefully relocking it on the inside, deliberately put the key in his waistcoat pocket; and, after surveying Mr. Winkle from head to foot, said —

'You're a wery humorous young gen'l'm'n, you air, Sir!'

'What do you mean by this conduct, Sam?' inquired Mr. Winkle indignantly. 'Get out, sir, this instant. What do you mean, Sir?'

'What do I mean,' retorted Sam; 'come, Sir, this is rayther too rich, as the young lady said when she remonstrated with the pastry-cook, arter he'd sold her a pork pie as had got nothin' but fat inside. What do I mean! Well, that ain't a bad 'un, that ain't.'

'Unlock that door, and leave this room immediately, Sir,' said Mr. Winkle.

'I shall leave this here room, sir, just precisely at the wery same moment as you leaves it,' responded Sam, speaking in a forcible manner, and seating himself with perfect gravity. 'If I find it necessary to carry you away, pick-a-back, o' course I shall leave it the least bit o' time possible afore you; but allow me to express a hope as you won't reduce me to extremities; in saying wich, I merely quote wot the nobleman said to the fractious pennywinkle, ven he vouldn't come out of his shell by means of a pin, and he conseqvently began to be afeered that he should be obliged to crack him in the parlour door.' At the end of this address, which was unusually lengthy for him, Mr. Weller planted his hands on his knees, and looked full in Mr. Winkle's face, with an expression of countenance which showed that he had not the remotest intention of being trifled with.

'You're a amiably-disposed young man, Sir, I don't think,' resumed Mr. Weller, in a tone of moral reproof, 'to go inwolving our precious governor in all sorts o' fanteegs, wen he's made up his mind to go through everythink for principle. You're far worse nor Dodson, Sir; and as for Fogg, I consider him a born angel to you!' Mr. Weller having accompanied this last sentiment with an emphatic slap on each knee, folded his arms with a look of great disgust, and threw himself back in his chair, as if awaiting the criminal's defence.

'My good fellow,' said Mr. Winkle, extending his hand — his teeth chattering all the time he spoke, for he had been standing, during the whole of Mr. Weller's lecture, in his night-gear — 'my good fellow, I respect your attachment to my excellent friend, and I am very sorry indeed to have added to his causes for disquiet. There, Sam, there!'

'Well,' said Sam, rather sulkily, but giving the proffered hand a respectful shake at the same time — 'well, so you ought to be, and I am very glad to find you air; for, if I can help it, I won't have him put upon by nobody, and that's all about it.'

'Certainly not, Sam,' said Mr. Winkle. 'There! Now go to bed, Sam, and we'll talk further about this in the morning.'

'I'm wery sorry,' said Sam, 'but I can't go to bed.'

'Not go to bed!' repeated Mr. Winkle.

'No,' said Sam, shaking his head. 'Can't be done.'

'You don't mean to say you're going back to-night, Sam?' urged Mr. Winkle, greatly surprised.

'Not unless you particklerly wish it,' replied Sam; 'but I mustn't leave this here room. The governor's orders wos peremptory.'

'Nonsense, Sam,' said Mr. Winkle, 'I must stop here two or three days; and more than that, Sam, you must stop here too, to assist me in gaining an interview with a young lady — Miss Allen, Sam; you remember her — whom I must and will see before I leave Bristol.'

But in reply to each of these positions, Sam shook his head with great firmness, and energetically replied, 'It can't be done.'

After a great deal of argument and representation on the part of Mr. Winkle, however, and a full disclosure of what had passed in the interview with Dowler, Sam began to waver; and at length a compromise was effected, of which the following were the main and principal conditions: —

That Sam should retire, and leave Mr. Winkle in the undisturbed possession of his apartment, on the condition that he had permission to lock the door on the outside, and carry off the key; provided always, that in the event of an alarm of fire, or other dangerous contingency, the door should be instantly unlocked. That a letter should be written to Mr. Pickwick early next morning, and forwarded per Dowler, requesting his consent to Sam and Mr. Winkle's remaining at Bristol, for the purpose and with the object already assigned, and begging an answer by the next coach — , if favourable, the aforesaid parties to remain accordingly, and if not, to return to Bath immediately on the receipt thereof. And, lastly, that Mr. Winkle should be understood as distinctly pledging himself not to resort to the window, fireplace, or other surreptitious mode of escape in the meanwhile. These stipulations having been concluded, Sam locked the door and departed.

He had nearly got downstairs, when he stopped, and drew the key from his pocket.

'I quite forgot about the knockin' down,' said Sam, half turning back. 'The governor distinctly said it was to be done. Amazin' stupid o' me, that 'ere! Never mind,' said Sam, brightening up, 'it's easily done to-morrow, anyvays.'

Apparently much consoled by this reflection, Mr. Weller once more deposited the key in his pocket, and descending the remainder of the stairs without any fresh visitations of conscience, was soon, in common with the other inmates of the house, buried in profound repose.

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