He derived, at that moment, more pride and luxury of feeling from the disinterested attachment of his humble friends, than ten thousand protestations from the greatest men living could have awakened in his heart.
While this conversation was passing in Mr. Pickwick's room, a little old gentleman in a suit of snuff-coloured clothes, followed by a porter carrying a small portmanteau, presented himself below; and, after securing a bed for the night, inquired of the waiter whether one Mrs. Winkle was staying there, to which question the waiter of course responded in the affirmative.
'Is she alone?' inquired the old gentleman.
'I believe she is, Sir,' replied the waiter; 'I can call her own maid, Sir, if you--'
'No, I don't want her,' said the old gentleman quickly. 'Show me to her room without announcing me.'
'Eh, Sir?' said the waiter.
'Are you deaf?' inquired the little old gentleman.
'Then listen, if you please. Can you hear me now?'
'That's well. Show me to Mrs. Winkle's room, without announcing me.'
As the little old gentleman uttered this command, he slipped five shillings into the waiter's hand, and looked steadily at him.
'Really, sir,' said the waiter, 'I don't know, sir, whether--'
'Ah! you'll do it, I see,' said the little old gentleman. 'You had better do it at once. It will save time.'
There was something so very cool and collected in the gentleman's manner, that the waiter put the five shillings in his pocket, and led him upstairs without another word.
'This is the room, is it?' said the gentleman. 'You may go.' The waiter complied, wondering much who the gentleman could be, and what he wanted; the little old gentleman, waiting till he was out of sight, tapped at the door.
'Come in,' said Arabella.
'Um, a pretty voice, at any rate,' murmured the little old gentleman; 'but that's nothing.' As he said this, he opened the door and walked in. Arabella, who was sitting at work, rose on beholding a stranger--a little confused--but by no means ungracefully so.
'Pray don't rise, ma'am,' said the unknown, walking in, and closing the door after him. 'Mrs. Winkle, I believe?'
Arabella inclined her head.
'Mrs. Nathaniel Winkle, who married the son of the old man at Birmingham?' said the stranger, eyeing Arabella with visible curiosity.
Again Arabella inclined her head, and looked uneasily round, as if uncertain whether to call for assistance.
'I surprise you, I see, ma'am,' said the old gentleman.
'Rather, I confess,' replied Arabella, wondering more and more.
'I'll take a chair, if you'll allow me, ma'am,' said the stranger.
He took one; and drawing a spectacle-case from his pocket, leisurely pulled out a pair of spectacles, which he adjusted on his nose.
'You don't know me, ma'am?' he said, looking so intently at Arabella that she began to feel alarmed.
'No, sir,' she replied timidly.
'No,' said the gentleman, nursing his left leg; 'I don't know how you should. You know my name, though, ma'am.'
'Do I?' said Arabella, trembling, though she scarcely knew why. 'May I ask what it is?'
'Presently, ma'am, presently,' said the stranger, not having yet removed his eyes from her countenance.