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Chapter 4

A FIELD DAY AND BIVOUAC―MORE NEWFRIENDS―AN INVITATION TO THE COUNTRYany authors entertain, not only a foolish, but a reallydishonest objection to acknowledge the sources whencethey derive much valuable information. We have nosuch feeling. We are merely endeavouring to discharge, in anupright manner, the responsible duties of our editorial functions;and whatever ambition we might have felt under othercircumstances to lay claim to the authorship of these adventures, aregard for truth forbids us to do more than claim the merit of theirjudicious arrangement and impartial narration. The Pickwickpapers are our New River Head; and we may be compared to theNew River Company. The labours of others have raised for us animmense reservoir of important facts. We merely lay them on, andcommunicate them, in a clear and gentle stream, through themedium of these pages, to a world thirsting for Pickwickianknowledge.

  Acting in this spirit, and resolutely proceeding on ourdetermination to avow our obligations to the authorities we haveconsulted, we frankly say, that to the note-book of Mr. Snodgrassare we indebted for the particulars recorded in this and thesucceeding chapter―particulars which, now that we havedisburdened our consciences, we shall proceed to detail withoutfurther comment.

  The whole population of Rochester and the adjoining townsrose from their beds at an early hour of the following morning, in astate of the utmost bustle and excitement. A grand review was totake place upon the lines. The manoeuvres of half a dozenregiments were to be inspected by the eagle eye of thecommander-in-chief; temporary fortifications had been erected,the citadel was to be attacked and taken, and a mine was to besprung.

  Mr. Pickwick was, as our readers may have gathered from theslight extract we gave from his description of Chatham, anenthusiastic admirer of the army. Nothing could have been moredelightful to him―nothing could have harmonised so well with thepeculiar feeling of each of his companions―as this sight.

  Accordingly they were soon afoot, and walking in the direction ofthe scene of action, towards which crowds of people were alreadypouring from a variety of quarters.

  The appearance of everything on the lines denoted that theapproaching ceremony was one of the utmost grandeur andimportance. There were sentries posted to keep the ground for thetroops, and servants on the batteries keeping places for the ladies,and sergeants running to and fro, with vellum-covered booksunder their arms, and Colonel Bulder, in full military uniform, onhorseback, galloping first to one place and then to another, andbacking his horse among the people, and prancing, and curvetting,and shouting in a most alarming manner, and making himself veryhoarse in the voice, and very red in the face, without anyassignable cause or reason whatever. Officers were runningbackwards and forwards, first communicating with ColonelBulder, and then ordering the sergeants, and then running awayaltogether; and even the very privates themselves looked frombehind their glazed stocks with an air of mysterious solemnity,which sufficiently bespoke the special nature of the occasion.

  Mr. Pickwick and his three companions stationed themselves inthe front of the crowd, and patiently awaited the commencementof the proceedings. The throng was increasing every moment; andthe efforts they were compelled to make, to retain the positionthey had gained, sufficiently occupied their attention during thetwo hours that ensued. At one time there was a sudden pressurefrom behind, and then Mr. Pickwick was jerked forward forseveral yards, with a degree of speed and elasticity highlyinconsistent with the general gravity of his demeanour; at anothermoment there was a request to ‘keep back’ from the front, andthen the butt-end of a musket was either dropped upon Mr.

  Pickwick’s toe, to remind him of the demand, or thrust into hischest, to insure its being complied with. Then some facetiousgentlemen on the left, after pressing sideways in a body, andsqueezing Mr. Snodgrass into the very last extreme of humantorture, would request to know ‘vere he vos a shovin’ to’; andwhen Mr. Winkle had done expressing his excessive indignation atwitnessing this unprovoked assault, some person behind wouldknock his hat over his eyes, and beg the favour of his putting hishead in his pocket. These, and other practical witticisms, coupledwith the unaccountable absence of Mr. Tupman (who hadsuddenly disappeared, and was nowhere to be found), renderedtheir situation upon the whole rather more uncomfortable thanpleasing or desirable.

  At length that low roar of many voices ran through the crowdwhich usually announces the arrival of whatever they have beenwaiting for. All eyes were turned in the direction of the sally-port.

  A few moments of eager expectation, and colours were seenfluttering gaily in the air, arms glistened brightly in the sun,column after column poured on to the plain. The troops halted andformed; the word of command rang through the line; there was ageneral clash of muskets as arms were presented; and thecommander-in-chief, attended by Colonel Bulder and numerousofficers, cantered to the front. The military bands struck upaltogether; the horses stood upon two legs each, canteredbackwards, and whisked their tails about in all directions; the dogsbarked, the mob screamed, the troops recovered, and nothing wasto be seen on either side, as far as the eye could reach, but a longperspective of red coats and white trousers, fixed and motionless.

  Mr. Pickwick had been so fully occupied in falling about, anddisentangling himself, miraculously, from between the legs ofhorses, that he had not enjoyed sufficient leisure to observe thescene before him, until it assumed the appearance we have justdescribed. When he was at last enabled to stand firmly on his legs,his gratification and delight were unbounded.

  ‘Can anything be finer or more delightful?’ he inquired of Mr.

  Winkle.

  ‘Nothing,’ replied that gentleman, who had had a short manstanding on each of his feet for the quarter of an hour immediatelypreceding. ‘It is indeed a noble and a brilliant sight,’ said Mr.

  Snodgrass, in whose bosom a blaze of poetry was rapidly burstingforth, ‘to see the gallant defenders of their country drawn up inbrilliant array before its peaceful citizens; their faces beaming―not with warlike ferocity, but with civilised gentleness; their eyesflashing―not with the rude fire of rapine or revenge, but with thesoft light of humanity and intelligence.’

  Mr. Pickwick fully entered into the spirit of this eulogium, buthe could not exactly re-echo its terms; for the soft light ofintelligence burned rather feebly in the eyes of the warriors,inasmuch as the command ‘eyes front’ had been given, and all thespectator saw before him was several thousand pair of optics,staring straight forward, wholly divested of any expressionwhatever.

  ‘We are in a capital situation now,’ said Mr. Pickwick, lookinground him. The crowd had gradually dispersed in their immediatevicinity, and they were nearly alone.

  ‘Capital!’ echoed both Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle.

  ‘What are they doing now?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick, adjustinghis spectacles.

  ‘I―I―rather think,’ said Mr. Winkle, changing colour―‘I ratherthink they’re going to fire.’

  ‘Nonsense,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily.

  ‘I―I―really think they are,’ urged Mr. Snodgrass, somewhatalarmed.

  ‘Impossible,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. He had hardly uttered theword, when the whole half-dozen regiments levelled their musketsas if they had but one common object, and that object thePickwickians, and burst forth with the most awful and tremendousdischarge that ever shook the earth to its centres, or an elderlygentleman off his.

  It was in this trying situation, exposed to a galling fire of blankcartridges, and harassed by the operations of the military, a freshbody of whom had begun to fall in on the opposite side, that Mr.

  Pickwick displayed that perfect coolness and self-possession,which are the indispensable accompaniments of a great mind. Heseized Mr. Winkle by the arm, and placing himself between thatgentleman and Mr. Snodgrass, earnestly besought them toremember that beyond the possibility of being rendered deaf bythe noise, there was no immediate danger to be apprehended fromthe firing.

  ‘But―but―suppose some of the men should happen to haveball cartridges by mistake,’ remonstrated Mr. Winkle, pallid at thesupposition he was himself conjuring up. ‘I heard somethingwhistle through the air now―so sharp; close to my ear.’

  ‘We had better throw ourselves on our faces, hadn’t we?’ saidMr. Snodgrass.

  ‘No, no―it’s over now,’ said Mr. Pickwick. His lip might quiver,and his cheek might blanch, but no expression of fear or concernescaped the lips of that immortal man.

  Mr. Pickwick was right―the firing ceased; but he had scarcelytime to congratulate himself on the accuracy of his opinion, whena quick movement was visible in the line; the hoarse shout of theword of command ran along it, and before either of the party couldform a guess at the meaning of this new manoeuvre, the whole ofthe half-dozen regiments, with fixed bayonets, charged at double-quick time down upon the very spot on which Mr. Pickwick andhis friends were stationed. Man is but mortal; and there is a pointbeyond which human courage cannot extend. Mr. Pickwick gazedthrough his spectacles for an instant on the advancing mass, andthen fairly turned his back and―we will not say fled; firstly,because it is an ignoble term, and, secondly, because Mr.

  Pickwick’s figure was by no means adapted for that mode ofretreat―he trotted away, at as quick a rate as his legs wouldconvey him; so quickly, indeed, that he did not perceive theawkwardness of his situation, to the full extent, until too late.

  The opposite troops, whose falling-in had perplexed Mr.

  Pickwick a few seconds before, were drawn up to repel the mimicattack of the sham besiegers of the citadel; and the consequencewas that Mr. Pickwick and his two companions found themselvessuddenly inclosed between two lines of great length, the oneadvancing at a rapid pace, and the other firmly waiting thecollision in hostile array.

  ‘Hoi!’ shouted the officers of the advancing line.

  ‘Get out of the way!’ cried the officers of the stationary one.

  ‘Where are we to go to?’ screamed the agitated Pickwickians.

  ‘Hoi―hoi―hoi!’ was the only reply. There was a moment ofintense bewilderment, a heavy tramp of footsteps, a violentconcussion, a smothered laugh; the half-dozen regiments were halfa thousand yards off, and the soles of Mr. Pickwick’s boots wereelevated in air.

  Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed acompulsory somerset with remarkable agility, when the firstobject that met the eyes of the latter as he sat on the ground,staunching with a yellow silk handkerchief the stream of life whichissued from his nose, was his venerated leader at some distanceoff, running after his own hat, which was gambolling playfullyaway in perspective.

  There are very few moments in a man’s existence when heexperiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so littlecharitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.

  A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, arerequisite in catching a hat. A man must not be precipitate, or heruns over it; he must not rush into the opposite extreme, or heloses it altogether. The best way is to keep gently up with theobject of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch youropportunity well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive,seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head; smilingpleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke asanybody else.

  There was a fine gentle wind, and Mr. Pickwick’s hat rolledsportively before it. The wind puffed, and Mr. Pickwick puffed,and the hat rolled over and over as merrily as a lively porpoise in astrong tide: and on it might have rolled, far beyond Mr. Pickwick’sreach, had not its course been providentially stopped, just as thatgentleman was on the point of resigning it to its fate.

  Mr. Pickwick, we say, was completely exhausted, and about togive up the chase, when the hat was blown with some violenceagainst the wheel of a carriage, which was drawn up in a line withhalf a dozen other vehicles on the spot to which his steps had beendirected. Mr. Pickwick, perceiving his advantage, darted brisklyforward, secured his property, planted it on his head, and pausedto take breath. He had not been stationary half a minute, when heheard his own name eagerly pronounced by a voice, which he atonce recognised as Mr. Tupman’s, and, looking upwards, hebeheld a sight which filled him with surprise and pleasure.

  In an open barouche, the horses of which had been taken out,the better to accommodate it to the crowded place, stood a stoutold gentleman, in a blue coat and bright buttons, corduroybreeches and top-boots, two young ladies in scarfs and feathers, ayoung gentleman apparently enamoured of one of the youngladies in scarfs and feathers, a lady of doubtful age, probably theaunt of the aforesaid, and Mr. Tupman, as easy and unconcernedas if he had belonged to the family from the first moments of hisinfancy. Fastened up behind the barouche was a hamper ofspacious dimensions―one of those hampers which alwaysawakens in a contemplative mind associations connected with coldfowls, tongues, and bottles of wine―and on the box sat a fat andred-faced boy, in a state of somnolency, whom no speculativeobserver could have regarded for an instant without setting downas the official dispenser of the contents of the before-mentionedhamper, when the proper time for their consumption shouldarrive.

  Mr. Pickwick had bestowed a hasty glance on these interestingobjects, when he was again greeted by his faithful disciple.

  ‘Pickwick―Pickwick,’ said Mr. Tupman; ‘come up here. Makehaste.’

  ‘Come along, sir. Pray, come up,’ said the stout gentleman.

  ‘Joe!―damn that boy, he’s gone to sleep again.―Joe, let down thesteps.’ The fat boy rolled slowly off the box, let down the steps, andheld the carriage door invitingly open. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr.

  Winkle came up at the moment.

  ‘Room for you all, gentlemen,’ said the stout man. ‘Two inside,and one out. Joe, make room for one of these gentlemen on thebox. Now, sir, come along;’ and the stout gentleman extended hisarm, and pulled first Mr. Pickwick, and then Mr. Snodgrass, intothe barouche by main force. Mr. Winkle mounted to the box, thefat boy waddled to the same perch, and fell fast asleep instantly.

  ‘Well, gentlemen,’ said the stout man, ‘very glad to see you.

  Know you very well, gentlemen, though you mayn’t remember me.

  I spent some ev’nin’s at your club last winter―picked up myfriend Mr. Tupman here this morning, and very glad I was to see him. Well, sir, and how are you? You do look uncommon well, tobe sure.’

  Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment, and cordiallyshook hands with the stout gentleman in the top-boots.

  ‘Well, and how are you, sir?’ said the stout gentleman,addressing Mr. Snodgrass with paternal anxiety. ‘Charming, eh?

  Well, that’s right―that’s right. And how are you, sir (to Mr.

  Winkle)? Well, I am glad to hear you say you are well; very glad Iam, to be sure. My daughters, gentlemen―my gals these are; andthat’s my sister, Miss Rachael Wardle. She’s a Miss, she is; and yetshe ain’t a Miss―eh, sir, eh?’ And the stout gentleman playfullyinserted his elbow between the ribs of Mr. Pickwick, and laughedvery heartily.

  ‘Lor, brother!’ said Miss Wardle, with a deprecating smile.

  ‘True, true,’ said the stout gentleman; ‘no one can deny it.

  Gentlemen, I beg your pardon; this is my friend Mr. Trundle. Andnow you all know each other, let’s be comfortable and happy, andsee what’s going forward; that’s what I say.’ So the stoutgentleman put on his spectacles, and Mr. Pickwick pulled out hisglass, and everybody stood up in the carriage, and looked oversomebody else’s shoulder at the evolutions of the military.

  Astounding evolutions they were, one rank firing over theheads of another rank, and then running away; and then the otherrank firing over the heads of another rank, and running away intheir turn; and then forming squares, with officers in the centre;and then descending the trench on one side with scaling-ladders,and ascending it on the other again by the same means; andknocking down barricades of baskets, and behaving in the mostgallant manner possible. Then there was such a ramming down ofthe contents of enormous guns on the battery, with instrumentslike magnified mops; such a preparation before they were let off,and such an awful noise when they did go, that the air resoundedwith the screams of ladies. The young Misses Wardle were sofrightened, that Mr. Trundle was actually obliged to hold one ofthem up in the carriage, while Mr. Snodgrass supported the other;and Mr. Wardle’s sister suffered under such a dreadful state ofnervous alarm, that Mr. Tupman found it indispensably necessaryto put his arm round her waist, to keep her up at all. Everybodywas excited, except the fat boy, and he slept as soundly as if theroaring of cannon were his ordinary lullaby.

  ‘Joe, Joe!’ said the stout gentleman, when the citadel was taken,and the besiegers and besieged sat down to dinner. ‘Damn thatboy, he’s gone to sleep again. Be good enough to pinch him, sir―inthe leg, if you please; nothing else wakes him―thank you. Undothe hamper, Joe.’

  The fat boy, who had been effectually roused by thecompression of a portion of his leg between the finger and thumbof Mr. Winkle, rolled off the box once again, and proceeded tounpack the hamper with more expedition than could have beenexpected from his previous inactivity.

  ‘Now we must sit close,’ said the stout gentleman. After a greatmany jokes about squeezing the ladies’ sleeves, and a vast quantityof blushing at sundry jocose proposals, that the ladies should sit inthe gentlemen’s laps, the whole party were stowed down in thebarouche; and the stout gentleman proceeded to hand the thingsfrom the fat boy (who had mounted up behind for the purpose)into the carriage.

  ‘Now, Joe, knives and forks.’ The knives and forks were handedin, and the ladies and gentlemen inside, and Mr. Winkle on thebox, were each furnished with those useful instruments.

  ‘Plates, Joe, plates.’ A similar process employed in thedistribution of the crockery.

  ‘Now, Joe, the fowls. Damn that boy; he’s gone to sleep again.

  Joe! Joe!’ (Sundry taps on the head with a stick, and the fat boy,with some difficulty, roused from his lethargy.) ‘Come, hand in theeatables.’

  There was something in the sound of the last word whichroused the unctuous boy. He jumped up, and the leaden eyeswhich twinkled behind his mountainous cheeks leered horriblyupon the food as he unpacked it from the basket.

  ‘Now make haste,’ said Mr. Wardle; for the fat boy was hangingfondly over a capon, which he seemed wholly unable to part with.

  The boy sighed deeply, and, bestowing an ardent gaze upon itsplumpness, unwillingly consigned it to his master.

  ‘That’s right―look sharp. Now the tongue―now the pigeon pie.

  Take care of that veal and ham―mind the lobsters―take the saladout of the cloth―give me the dressing.’ Such were the hurriedorders which issued from the lips of Mr. Wardle, as he handed inthe different articles described, and placed dishes in everybody’shands, and on everybody’s knees, in endless number. ‘Now ain’tthis capital?’ inquired that jolly personage, when the work ofdestruction had commenced.

  ‘Capital!’ said Mr. Winkle, who was carving a fowl on the box.

  ‘Glass of wine?’

  ‘With the greatest pleasure.’

  ‘You’d better have a bottle to yourself up there, hadn’t you?’

  ‘You’re very good.’

  ‘Joe!’

  ‘Yes, sir.’ (He wasn’t asleep this time, having just succeeded inabstracting a veal patty.)‘Bottle of wine to the gentleman on the box. Glad to see you,sir.’

  ‘Thank’ee.’ Mr. Winkle emptied his glass, and placed the bottleon the coach-box, by his side.

  ‘Will you permit me to have the pleasure, sir?’ said Mr. Trundleto Mr. Winkle.

  ‘With great pleasure,’ replied Mr. Winkle to Mr. Trundle, andthen the two gentlemen took wine, after which they took a glass ofwine round, ladies and all.

  ‘How dear Emily is flirting with the strange gentleman,’

  whispered the spinster aunt, with true spinster-aunt-like envy, toher brother, Mr. Wardle.

  ‘Oh! I don’t know,’ said the jolly old gentleman; ‘all verynatural, I dare say―nothing unusual. Mr. Pickwick, some wine,sir?’ Mr. Pickwick, who had been deeply investigating the interiorof the pigeon-pie, readily assented.

  ‘Emily, my dear,’ said the spinster aunt, with a patronising air,‘don’t talk so loud, love.’

  ‘Lor, aunt!’

  ‘Aunt and the little old gentleman want to have it all tothemselves, I think,’ whispered Miss Isabella Wardle to her sisterEmily. The young ladies laughed very heartily, and the old onetried to look amiable, but couldn’t manage it.

  ‘Young girls have such spirits,’ said Miss Wardle to Mr.

  Tupman, with an air of gentle commiseration, as if animal spiritswere contraband, and their possession without a permit a highcrime and misdemeanour.

  ‘Oh, they have,’ replied Mr. Tupman, not exactly making thesort of reply that was expected from him. ‘It’s quite delightful.’

  ‘Hem!’ said Miss Wardle, rather dubiously.

  ‘Will you permit me?’ said Mr. Tupman, in his blandestmanner, touching the enchanting Rachael’s wrist with one hand,and gently elevating the bottle with the other. ‘Will you permitme?’

  ‘Oh, sir!’ Mr. Tupman looked most impressive; and Rachaelexpressed her fear that more guns were going off, in which case, ofcourse, she should have required support again.

  ‘Do you think my dear nieces pretty?’ whispered theiraffectionate aunt to Mr. Tupman.

  ‘I should, if their aunt wasn’t here,’ replied the readyPickwickian, with a passionate glance.

  ‘Oh, you naughty man―but really, if their complexions were alittle little better, don’t you think they would be nice-lookinggirls―by candlelight?’

  ‘Yes; I think they would,’ said Mr. Tupman, with an air ofindifference.

  ‘Oh, you quiz―I know what you were going to say.’

  ‘What?’ inquired Mr. Tupman, who had not precisely made uphis mind to say anything at all.

  ‘You were going to say that Isabel stoops―I know you were―you men are such observers. Well, so she does; it can’t be denied;and, certainly, if there is one thing more than another that makesa girl look ugly it is stooping. I often tell her that when she gets alittle older she’ll be quite frightful. Well, you are a quiz!’

  Mr. Tupman had no objection to earning the reputation at socheap a rate: so he looked very knowing, and smiled mysteriously.

  ‘What a sarcastic smile,’ said the admiring Rachael; ‘I declareI’m quite afraid of you.’

  ‘Afraid of me!’

  ‘Oh, you can’t disguise anything from me―I know what thatsmile means very well.’

  ‘What?’ said Mr. Tupman, who had not the slightest notionhimself.

  ‘You mean,’ said the amiable aunt, sinking her voice stilllower―‘you mean, that you don’t think Isabella’s stooping is asbad as Emily’s boldness. Well, she is bold! You cannot think howwretched it makes me sometimes―I’m sure I cry about it for hourstogether―my dear brother is so good, and so unsuspicious, that henever sees it; if he did, I’m quite certain it would break his heart. Iwish I could think it was only manner―I hope it may be―‘ (Herethe affectionate relative heaved a deep sigh, and shook her headdespondingly).

  ‘I’m sure aunt’s talking about us,’ whispered Miss Emily Wardleto 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 handkerchiefto tie round your dear old head―you really should take care ofyourself―consider your age!’

  However well deserved this piece of retaliation might havebeen, it was as vindictive a one as could well have been resortedto. There is no guessing in what form of reply the aunt’sindignation would have vented itself, had not Mr. Wardleunconsciously changed the subject, by calling emphatically for Joe.

  ‘Damn that boy,’ said the old gentleman, ‘he’s gone to sleepagain.’

  ‘Very extraordinary boy, that,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘does healways sleep in this way?’

  ‘Sleep!’ said the old gentleman, ‘he’s always asleep. Goes onerrands 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 thatboy―wouldn’t part with him on any account―he’s a naturalcuriosity! Here, Joe―Joe―take these things away, and openanother bottle―d’ye hear?’

  The fat boy rose, opened his eyes, swallowed the huge piece ofpie he had been in the act of masticating when he last fell asleep,and slowly obeyed his master’s orders―gloating languidly overthe remains of the feast, as he removed the plates, and depositedthem in the hamper. The fresh bottle was produced, and speedilyemptied: the hamper was made fast in its old place―the fat boyonce more mounted the box―the spectacles and pocket-glasswere again adjusted―and the evolutions of the militaryrecommenced. There was a great fizzing and banging of guns, andstarting of ladies―and then a Mine was sprung, to the gratificationof everybody―and when the mine had gone off, the military andthe company followed its example, and went off too.

  ‘Now, mind,’ said the old gentleman, as he shook hands withMr. Pickwick at the conclusion of a conversation which had beencarried 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 hispocket-book. ‘That’s it,’ said the old gentleman. ‘I don’t let you off,mind, under a week; and undertake that you shall see everythingworth 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 tosleep again―Joe, help Tom put in the horses.’

  The horses were put in―the driver mounted―the fat boyclambered up by his side―farewells were exchanged―and thecarriage rattled off. As the Pickwickians turned round to take alast glimpse of it, the setting sun cast a rich glow on the faces oftheir entertainers, and fell upon the form of the fat boy. His headwas sunk upon his bosom; and he slumbered again.



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