How Mr. Pickwick sped upon his mission, and how he was reinforced in the outset by a most unexpected auxiliary
THE horses were put to, punctually at a quarter before nine next morning, and Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller having each taken his seat, the one inside and the other out, the postillion was duly directed to repair in the first instance to Mr. Bob Sawyer's house, for the purpose of taking up Mr. Benjamin Allen.
It was with feelings of no small astonishment, when the carriage drew up before the door with the red lamp, and the very legible inscription of "Sawyer, late Nockemorf," that Mr. Pickwick saw, on popping his head out of the coachwindow, the boy in the grey livery very busily employed in putting up the shutters: the which, being an unusual and an un-business-like proceeding at that hour of the morning, at once suggested to his mind, two inferences; the one, that some good friend and patient of Mr. Bob Sawyer's was dead; the other, that Mr. Bob Sawyer himself was bankrupt.
"What is the matter?" said Mr. Pickwick to the boy.
"Nothing's the matter, sir," replied the boy, expanding his mouth to the whole breadth of his countenance.
"All right, all right!" cried Bob Sawyer, suddenly appearing at the door, with a small leathern knapsack, limp and dirty, in one hand, and a rough coat and shawl thrown over the other arm. "I'm going, old fellow."
"You!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
"Yes," replied Bob Sawyer, "and a regular expedition we'll make of it. Here, Sam! Look out!" Thus briefly bespeaking Mr. Weller's attention, Mr. Bob Sawyer jerked the leathern knapsack into the dickey, where it was immediately stowed away, under the seat, by Sam, who regarded the proceeding with great admiration. This done, Mr. Bob Sawyer, with the assistance of the boy, forcibly worked himself into the rough coat, which was a few sizes too small for him, and then advancing to the coach-window, thrust in his head, and laughed boisterously.
"What a start it is, isn't it!" cried Bob, wiping the tears out of his eyes, with one of the cuffs of the rough coat.
"My dear sir," said Mr. Pickwick, with some embarrassment, "I had no idea of your accompanying us."
"No, that's just the very thing," replied Bob, seizing Mr. Pickwick by the lapel of his coat. "That's the joke."
"Oh, that's the joke?" said Mr. Pickwick.
"Of course," replied Bob. "It's the whole point of the thing, you know--that, and leaving the business to take care of itself, as it seems to have made up its mind not to take care of me." With this explanation of the phenomenon of the shutters, Mr. Bob Sawyer pointed to the shop, and relapsed into an ecstasy of mirth.
"Bless me, you are surely not mad enough to think of leaving your patients without anybody to attend them!" remonstrated Mr. Pickwick in a very serious tone.
"Why not?" asked Bob, in reply. "I shall save by it, you know. None of them ever pay. Besides," said Bob, lowering his voice to a confidential whisper, "they will be all the better for it; for, being nearly out of drugs, and not able to increase my account just now, I should have been obliged to give them calomel all round, and it would have been certain to have disagreed with some of them. So it's all for the best."
There was a philosophy, and a strength of reasoning, about this reply, which Mr. Pickwick was not prepared for. He paused a few moments, and added, less firmly than before:
"But this chaise, my young friend, will only hold two; and I am pledged to Mr. Allen."
"Don't think of me for a minute," replied Bob. "I've arranged it all; Sam and I will share the dickey between us. Look here. This little bill is to be wafered on the shop door: `Sawyer, late Nockemorf. Enquire of
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