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Ah, to be sure," said Mr. Pickwick; "I never thought of that. When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so you will."
"I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman," said Mrs. Bar
"And little boy your
"Bless his heart," interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob. He, too, will have a companion," resumed Mr. Pickwick, a lively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in a year." And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.
"O you dear—" said Mrs. Bardell.
Mr. Pickwick started.
O you kind, good, playful dear," said Mrs. Bardell; and without more ado she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears, and a chorus of sobs. "Bless my soul!" cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick ; Bardell, my good woman, dear me, what a situation, sider. Mrs. Bardell, don't, if anybody should come
'O, let them come," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, frantically. never leave you, — dear, kind, good soul"; and, with these words, Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.
Mercy upon me," said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently. "I hear somebody coming up the stairs. Don't, don't, there's a good creature, don't." But entreaty and remonstrance were alike unavailing, for Mrs. Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick's arms; and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, Master Bardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snod
Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless. He stood with his lovely burden in his arms, gazing vacantly on the countenances of his friends, without the slightest attempt at recognition or explanation. They, in their turn, stared at him; and Master Bardell, in his turn, stared at everybody.
The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, and the perplexity of Mr. Pickwick was so extreme, that they might have remained in exactly the same relative situations until the suspended animation of the lady was restored, had it not been for a most beautiful and touching expression of filial affection on the part of her youthful
son. Clad in a tight suit of corduroy, spangled with brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at first stood at the door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, the impression that his mother must have suffered some personal damage pervaded his partially developed mind, and, considering Mr. Pickwick the aggressor, he set up an appalling and semi-earthly kind of howling, and, butting forward with his head, commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the back and legs with such blows and pinches as the strength of his arm and the violence of his excitement allowed.
"Take this little villain away," said the agonized Mr. Pickwick, "he's mad."
What is the matter? said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians. "I don't know," replied Mr. Pickwick, pettishly. "Take away the boy" (here Mr. Winkle carried the interesting boy, screaming and struggling, to the farther end of the apartment). Now help me to lead this woman down stairs."
“O, I'm better now," said Mrs. Bardell, faintly. "Let me lead you down stairs," said the ever-gallant Mr. Tup
"Thank you, sir, thank you," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, hysterically. And down stairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her affectionate son.
"I cannot conceive," said Mr. Pickwick, when his friend returned, "I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. had merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing!
'Very," said his three friends.
'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation," continued Mr. Pickwick.
'Very," was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and looked dubiously at each other.
This behavior was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their incredulity. They evidently suspected him.
“There is a man in the passage now," said Mr. Tupman.
"It's the man that I spoke to you about," said Mr. Pickwick. I sent for him to the Borough this morning. Have the goodness to call him up, Snodgrass."
THE LAST HOURS OF LITTLE PAUL DOMBEY.
PAUL had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening to the noises in the street, quite tranquilly; not caring much how the time went, but watching everything about him with observing eyes.
When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the reflection died away, and the gloom went creeping up the wall, he watched it deepen, deepen, deepen into night. Then he thought how the long streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were shining overhead. His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the river, which he knew was flowing through the great city; and now he thought how black it was, and how deep it would look, reflecting the hosts of stars, and more than all, how steadily it rolled away to meet the sea.
As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became so rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and lose them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the manycolored ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day. His only trouble was, the swift and rapid river. He felt forced, sometimes, to try to stop it, to stem it with his childish hands, or choke its way with sand, and when he saw it coming on, resistless, he cried out! But a word from Florence, who was always at his side, restored him to himself; and leaning his poor head upon her breast, he told Floy of his dream, and smiled.
When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and when its cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himselfpictured! he saw the high church-towers rising up into the morning sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more, the river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the country bright with dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees into the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy ; faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants softly how he was. Paul always answered for himself, "I am better. I am a great deal better, thank you! Tell papa so!"
By little and little he got tired of the bustle of the day, the noise of carriages and carts, people passing and repassing; and would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense again -- the
child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping or his waking moments - of that rushing river. Why, will it never stop, Floy?" he would sometimes ask her. "It is bearing me away, I think!" But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take
"You are always watching me, Floy. Let me watch you, now!” They would prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he would recline the while she lay beside him; bending forward oftentimes to kiss her, and whispering to those who were near that she was tired, and how she had sat up so many nights beside him.
- and the room was so
Thus, the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall. He was visited by as many as three grave doctors, they used to assemble down stairs, and come up together, quiet, and Paul was so observant of them (though he never asked of anybody what they said), that he even knew the difference in the sound of their watches. But his interest centered in Sir Parker Peps, who always took his seat on the side of the bed. For Paul had heard them say long ago, that that gentleman had been with his mamma when she clasped Florence in her arms and died. And he could not forget it now. He liked him for it. He was not afraid. . .
Paul closed his eyes with those words, and fell asleep. When he awoke, the sun was high, and the broad day was clear and warm. He lay a little, looking at the windows, which were open, and the curtains rustling in the air, and waving to and fro then he said, "Floy, is it to-morrow? Is she come?"
Some one seemed to go in quest of her. Perhaps it was Susan. Paul thought he heard her telling him, when he had closed his eyes again, that she would soon be back; but he did not open them to see. She kept her word—perhaps she had never been away but the next thing that happened was a noise of footsteps on the stairs, and then Paul woke - woke mind and body and sat upright in his bed. He saw them now about him. There was no gray mist before them, as there had been sometimes in the night. He knew them every one, and called them by their names.
And who is this? Is this my old nurse?" said the child, regarding, with a radiant smile, a figure coming in.
No other stranger would have shed those tears at the
sight of him, and called him her dear boy, her pretty boy, her own poor blighted child. No other woman would have stooped down by his bed, and taken up his wasted hand, and put it to her lips and breast, as one who had some right to fondle it. No other woman would have so forgotten everybody there but him and Floy, and been so full of tenderness and pity.
"Floy! this is a kind good face!" said Paul. "I am glad to see it again. Don't go away, old nurse! Stay here!"
His senses were all quickened, and he heard a name he knew.
"Who was that? who said Walter?" he asked, looking round. 'Some one said Walter. Is he here? I should like to see him very
Nobody replied directly, but his father soon said to Susan, "Call him back, then let him come up!" After a short pause of expectation, during which he looked with smiling interest and wonder on his nurse, and saw that she had not forgotten Floy, Walter was brought into the room. His open face and manner, and his cheerful eyes, had always made him a favorite with Paul; and when Paul saw him, he stretched out his hand, and said, “Good by!"
"Good by, my child!" cried Mrs. Pipchin, hurrying to his bed's head. "Not good by?
For an instant, Paul looked at her with the wistful face with which he had so often gazed upon her in his corner by the fire. "Ah, yes," he said, placidly, "good by! Walter dear, good by!" turning his head to where he stood, and putting out his hand again. "Where is papa ?
He felt his father's breath upon his cheek, before the words had parted from his lips.
'Remember Walter, dear papa,” he whispered, looking in his face, "remember Walter. I was fond of Walter!" The feeble hand waved in the air, as if it cried "good by! to Walter once again. "Now lay me down again," he said;
"and, Floy, come close to
me, and let me see you!"
Sister and brother wound their arms around each other, and the golden light came streaming in, and fell upon them, locked together.
"How fast the river runs between its green banks and the rushes, Floy! But it's very near the sea. I hear the waves. They always said so!"
Presently he told her that the motion of the boat upon the stream was lulling him to rest. How green the banks were now, how bright