"La, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Bardell; the crimson rising to her cap-border again.
"I do," said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him, "I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind."
"Dear me, sir," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.
"You'll think it very strange now," said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with a good-humoured glance at his companion, "that I never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little boy out this morning--eh?"
Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose--a deliberate plan, too--sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the way--how thoughtful--how considerate!
"Well," said Mr. Pickwick, "what do you think?"
"Oh, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, "you're very kind, sir."
"It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?" said Mr. Pickwick.
"Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir," replied Mrs. Bardell; "and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness."
"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. Bardell.
"And your little boy--" said Mr. Pickwick.
"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.
"Oh you dear--" said Mrs. Bardell.
Mr. Pickwick started.
"Oh 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;--"Mrs. Bardell my good woman--dear me, what a situation--pray consider.--Mrs. Bardell, don't--if anybody should come--"
"Oh, let them come," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, frantically; "I'll 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. Snodgrass.
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