'Did you speak, Sir?' inquired Mr. Winkle, senior, after an awful silence.
'No, sir,' replied Bob, With no remains of the clown about him, save and except the extreme redness of his cheeks.
'You are sure you did not, sir?' said Mr. Winkle, senior.
'Oh dear, yes, sir, quite,' replied Bob.
'I thought you did, Sir,' replied the old gentleman, with indignant emphasis. 'Perhaps you LOOKED at me, sir?'
'Oh, no! sir, not at all,' replied Bob, with extreme civility.
'I am very glad to hear it, sir,' said Mr. Winkle, senior. Having frowned upon the abashed Bob with great magnificence, the old gentleman again brought the letter to the light, and began to read it seriously.
Mr. Pickwick eyed him intently as he turned from the bottom line of the first page to the top line of the second, and from the bottom of the second to the top of the third, and from the bottom of the third to the top of the fourth; but not the slightest alteration of countenance afforded a clue to the feelings with which he received the announcement of his son's marriage, which Mr. Pickwick knew was in the very first half-dozen lines.
He read the letter to the last word, folded it again with all the carefulness and precision of a man of business, and, just when Mr. Pickwick expected some great outbreak of feeling, dipped a pen in the ink-stand, and said, as quietly as if he were speaking on the most ordinary counting-house topic —
'What is Nathaniel's address, Mr. Pickwick?'
'The George and Vulture, at present,' replied that gentleman.
'George and Vulture. Where is that?'
'George Yard, Lombard Street.'
'In the city?'
The old gentleman methodically indorsed the address on the back of the letter; and then, placing it in the desk, which he locked, said, as he got off the stool and put the bunch of keys in his pocket —
'I suppose there is nothing else which need detain us, Mr. Pickwick?'
'Nothing else, my dear Sir!' observed that warm-hearted person in indignant amazement. 'Nothing else! Have you no opinion to express on this momentous event in our young friend's life? No assurance to convey to him, through me, of the continuance of your affection and protection? Nothing to say which will cheer and sustain him, and the anxious girl who looks to him for comfort and support? My dear Sir, consider.'
'I will consider,' replied the old gentleman. 'I have nothing to say just now. I am a man of business, Mr. Pickwick. I never commit myself hastily in any affair, and from what I see of this, I by no means like the appearance of it. A thousand pounds is not much, Mr. Pickwick.'
'You're very right, Sir,' interposed Ben Allen, just awake enough to know that he had spent his thousand pounds without the smallest difficulty. 'You're an intelligent man. Bob, he's a very knowing fellow this.'
'I am very happy to find that you do me the justice to make the admission, sir,' said Mr. Winkle, senior, looking contemptuously at Ben Allen, who was shaking his head profoundly. 'The fact is, Mr. Pickwick, that when I gave my son a roving license for a year or so, to see something of men and manners (which he has done under your auspices), so that he might not enter life a mere boarding-school milk-sop to be gulled by everybody, I never bargained for this. He knows that very well, so if I withdraw my countenance from him on this account, he has no call to be surprised. He shall hear from me, Mr. Pickwick. Good-night, sir. — Margaret, open the door.'
All this time, Bob Sawyer had been nudging Mr. Ben Allen to say something on the right side; Ben accordingly now burst, without the slightest preliminary notice, into a brief but impassioned piece of eloquence.
'Sir,' said Mr. Ben Allen, staring at the old gentleman, out of a pair of very dim and languid eyes, and working his right arm vehemently up and down, 'you — you ought to be ashamed of yourself.'
'As the lady's brother, of course you are an excellent judge of the question,' retorted Mr. Winkle, senior. 'There; that's enough. Pray say no more, Mr. Pickwick. Good-night, gentlemen!'
With these words the old gentleman took up the candle-stick and opening the room door, politely motioned towards the passage.
'You will regret this, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, setting his teeth close together to keep down his choler; for he felt how important the effect might prove to his young friend.
'I am at present of a different opinion,' calmly replied Mr. Winkle, senior. 'Once again, gentlemen, I wish you a good-night.'
Mr. Pickwick walked with angry strides into the street. Mr. Bob Sawyer, completely quelled by the decision of the old gentleman's manner, took the same course. Mr. Ben Allen's hat rolled down the steps immediately afterwards, and Mr. Ben Allen's body followed it directly. The whole party went silent and supperless to bed; and Mr. Pickwick thought, just before he fell asleep, that if he had known Mr. Winkle, senior, had been quite so much of a man of business, it was extremely probable he might never have waited upon him, on such an errand.