|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
'Dear me!' exclaimed the old lady. 'I am so flurried, now I have got here, Martin, that I'm all in a tremble.'
Mr. Martin coughed behind the dark wash-leather gloves, but expressed no sympathy; so the old lady, composing herself, trotted up Mr. Bob Sawyer's steps, and Mr. Martin followed. Immediately on the old lady's entering the shop, Mr. Benjamin Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been putting the spirits-and- water out of sight, and upsetting nauseous drugs to take off the smell of the tobacco smoke, issued hastily forth in a transport of pleasure and affection.
'My dear aunt,' exclaimed Mr. Ben Allen, 'how kind of you to look in upon us! Mr. Sawyer, aunt; my friend Mr. Bob Sawyer whom I have spoken to you about, regarding--you know, aunt.' And here Mr. Ben Allen, who was not at the moment extraordinarily sober, added the word 'Arabella,' in what was meant to be a whisper, but which was an especially audible and distinct tone of speech which nobody could avoid hearing, if anybody were so disposed.
'My dear Benjamin,' said the old lady, struggling with a great shortness of breath, and trembling from head to foot, 'don't be alarmed, my dear, but I think I had better speak to Mr. Sawyer, alone, for a moment. Only for one moment.'
'Bob,' said Mr. Allen, 'will you take my aunt into the surgery?'
'Certainly,' responded Bob, in a most professional voice. 'Step this way, my dear ma'am. Don't be frightened, ma'am. We shall be able to set you to rights in a very short time, I have no doubt, ma'am. Here, my dear ma'am. Now then!' With this, Mr. Bob Sawyer having handed the old lady to a chair, shut the door, drew another chair close to her, and waited to hear detailed the symptoms of some disorder from which he saw in perspective a long train of profits and advantages.
The first thing the old lady did, was to shake her head a great many times, and began to cry.
'Nervous,' said Bob Sawyer complacently. 'Camphor-julep and water three times a day, and composing draught at night.'
'I don't know how to begin, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady. 'It is so very painful and distressing.'
'You need not begin, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bob Sawyer. 'I can anticipate all you would say. The head is in fault.'
'I should be very sorry to think it was the heart,' said the old lady, with a slight groan.
'Not the slightest danger of that, ma'am,' replied Bob Sawyer. 'The stomach is the primary cause.'
'Mr. Sawyer!' exclaimed the old lady, starting.
'Not the least doubt of it, ma'am,' rejoined Bob, looking wondrous wise. 'Medicine, in time, my dear ma'am, would have prevented it all.'
'Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady, more flurried than before, 'this conduct is either great impertinence to one in my situation, Sir, or it arises from your not understanding the object of my visit. If it had been in the power of medicine, or any foresight I could have used, to prevent what has occurred, I should certainly have done so. I had better see my nephew at once,' said the old lady, twirling her reticule indignantly, and rising as she spoke.
'Stop a moment, ma'am,' said Bob Sawyer; 'I'm afraid I have not understood you. What IS the matter, ma'am?'
'My niece, Mr. Sawyer,' said the old lady: 'your friend's sister.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Bob, all impatience; for the old lady, although much agitated, spoke with the most tantalising deliberation, as old ladies often do. 'Yes, ma'am.'
'Left my home, Mr. Sawyer, three days ago, on a pretended visit to my sister, another aunt of hers, who keeps the large boarding-school, just beyond the third mile-stone, where there is a very large laburnum-tree and an oak gate,' said the old lady, stopping in this place to dry her eyes.
'Oh, devil take the laburnum-tree, ma'am!' said Bob, quite forgetting his professional dignity in his anxiety. 'Get on a little faster; put a little more steam on, ma'am, pray.'
'This morning,' said the old lady slowly--'this morning, she--'
'She came back, ma'am, I suppose,' said Bob, with great animation. 'Did she come back?'
'No, she did not; she wrote,' replied the old lady.
'What did she say?' inquired Bob eagerly.
'She said, Mr. Sawyer,' replied the old lady--'and it is this I want to prepare Benjamin's mind for, gently and by degrees; she said that she was-- I have got the letter in my pocket, Mr. Sawyer, but my glasses are in the carriage, and I should only waste your time if I attempted to point out the passage to you, without them; she said, in short, Mr. Sawyer, that she was married.' 'What!' said, or rather shouted, Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'Married,' repeated the old lady.
Mr. Bob Sawyer stopped to hear no more; but darting from the surgery into the outer shop, cried in a stentorian voice, 'Ben, my boy, she's bolted!'
Mr. Ben Allen, who had been slumbering behind the counter, with his head half a foot or so below his knees, no sooner heard this appalling communication, than he made a precipitate rush at Mr. Martin, and, twisting his hand in the neck-cloth of that taciturn servitor, expressed an obliging intention of choking him where he stood. This intention, with a promptitude often the effect of desperation, he at once commenced carrying into execution, with much vigour and surgical skill.
Mr. Martin, who was a man of few words and possessed but little power of eloquence or persuasion, submitted to this operation with a very calm and agreeable expression of countenance, for some seconds; finding, however, that it threatened speedily to lead to a result which would place it beyond his power to claim any wages, board or otherwise, in all time to come, he muttered an inarticulate remonstrance and felled Mr. Benjamin Allen to the ground. As that gentleman had his hands entangled in his cravat, he had no alternative but to follow him to the floor. There they both lay struggling, when the shop door opened, and the party was increased by the arrival of two most unexpected visitors, to wit, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Samuel Weller.
The impression at once produced on Mr. Weller's mind by what he saw, was, that Mr. Martin was hired by the establishment of Sawyer, late Nockemorf, to take strong medicine, or to go into fits and be experimentalised upon, or to swallow poison now and then with the view of testing the efficacy of some new antidotes, or to do something or other to promote the great science of medicine, and gratify the ardent spirit of inquiry burning in the bosoms of its two young professors. So, without presuming to interfere, Sam stood perfectly still, and looked on, as if he were mightily interested in the result of the then pending experiment. Not so, Mr. Pickwick. He at once threw himself on the astonished combatants, with his accustomed energy, and loudly called upon the bystanders to interpose.
This roused Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been hitherto quite paralysed by the frenzy of his companion. With that gentleman's assistance, Mr. Pickwick raised Ben Allen to his feet. Mr. Martin finding himself alone on the floor, got up, and looked about him.
'Mr. Allen,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what is the matter, Sir?'
'Never mind, Sir!' replied Mr. Allen, with haughty defiance.
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
The Pickwick Papers -- by Charles Dickens