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 resumed.
'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.