Tupman, who had not the slightest notion himself.

'You mean,' said the amiable aunt, sinking her voice still lower--'you mean, that you don't think Isabella's stooping is as bad as Emily's boldness. Well, she is bold! You cannot think how wretched it makes me sometimes--I'm sure I cry about it for hours together--my dear brother is SO good, and so unsuspicious, that he never sees it; if he did, I'm quite certain it would break his heart. I wish I could think it was only manner--I hope it may be--' (Here the affectionate relative heaved a deep sigh, and shook her head despondingly).

'I'm sure aunt's talking about us,' whispered Miss Emily Wardle to her sister--'I'm quite certain of it--she looks so malicious.'

'Is she?' replied Isabella.--'Hem! aunt, dear!'

'Yes, my dear love!'

'I'm SO afraid you'll catch cold, aunt--have a silk handkerchief to tie round your dear old head--you really should take care of yourself--consider your age!'

However well deserved this piece of retaliation might have been, it was as vindictive a one as could well have been resorted to. There is no guessing in what form of reply the aunt's indignation would have vented itself, had not Mr. Wardle unconsciously changed the subject, by calling emphatically for Joe.

'Damn that boy,' said the old gentleman, 'he's gone to sleep again.'

'Very extraordinary boy, that,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'does he always sleep in this way?'

'Sleep!' said the old gentleman, 'he's always asleep. Goes on errands fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table.'

'How very odd!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Ah! odd indeed,' returned the old gentleman; 'I'm proud of that boy--wouldn't part with him on any account--he's a natural curiosity! Here, Joe--Joe--take these things away, and open another bottle--d'ye hear?'

The fat boy rose, opened his eyes, swallowed the huge piece of pie he had been in the act of masticating when he last fell asleep, and slowly obeyed his master's orders--gloating languidly over the remains of the feast, as he removed the plates, and deposited them in the hamper. The fresh bottle was produced, and speedily emptied: the hamper was made fast in its old place--the fat boy once more mounted the box--the spectacles and pocket- glass were again adjusted--and the evolutions of the military recommenced. There was a great fizzing and banging of guns, and starting of ladies--and then a Mine was sprung, to the gratification of everybody--and when the mine had gone off, the military and the company followed its example, and went off too.

'Now, mind,' said the old gentleman, as he shook hands with Mr. Pickwick at the conclusion of a conversation which had been carried on at intervals, during the conclusion of the proceedings, "we shall see you all to-morrow.'

'Most certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'You have got the address?'

'Manor Farm, Dingley Dell,' said Mr. Pickwick, consulting his pocket-book. 'That's it,' said the old gentleman. 'I don't let you off, mind, under a week; and undertake that you shall see everything worth seeing. If you've come down for a country life, come to me, and I'll give you plenty of it. Joe--damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again--Joe, help Tom put in the horses.'

The horses were put in--the driver mounted--the fat boy clambered up by his side--farewells were exchanged-- and the carriage rattled off. As the Pickwickians turned round to take a last glimpse of it, the setting sun cast a rich glow on the faces of their entertainers, and fell upon the form of the fat boy. His head was sunk upon his bosom; and he slumbered again.

CHAPTER V A SHORT ONE--SHOWING, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, HOW Mr. PICKWICK UNDERTOOK TO DRIVE, AND Mr. WINKLE TO RIDE, AND HOW THEY BOTH DID IT

Bright and pleasant was the sky, balmy the air, and beautiful the appearance of every object around, as Mr. Pickwick leaned over the balustrades of Rochester Bridge, contemplating nature, and waiting for breakfast. The scene was indeed one which might well have charmed a far less reflective mind, than that to which it was presented.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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