matter," said Mr. Pickwick, "I can undress myself just as well, by the light of the fire."
The bedsteads stood, one on each side of the door; and on the inner side of each was a little path, terminating in a rush-bottomed chair, just wide enough to admit of a person's getting into or out of bed on that side, if he or she thought proper. Having carefully drawn the curtains of his bed on the outside, Mr. Pickwick sat down on the rush-bottomed chair, and leisurely divested himself of his shoes and gaiters. He then took off and folded up his coat, waistcoat, and neck-cloth, and, slowly tying on his tasselled nightcap, secured it firmly on his head, by tying beneath his chin the strings which he had always attached to that article of dress. It was at this moment that the absurdity of his recent bewilderment struck upon his mind; and throwing himself back in the rush-bottomed chair, Mr. Pickwick laughed to himself so heartily, that it would have been quite delightful to any man of well-constituted mind to have watched the smiles which expanded his amiable features as they shone forth from beneath the nightcap.
"It is the best idea," said Mr. Pickwick to himself, smiling till he almost cracked the nightcap strings,—"it is the best idea, my losing myself in this place, and wandering about those staircases, that I ever heard of. Droll, droll, very droll." Here Mr. Pickwick smiled again, a broader smile than before, and was about to continue the process of undressing, in the very best possible humor, when he was suddenly stopped by a most unexpected interruption; to wit, the entrance into the room of some person with a candle, who, after locking the door, advanced to the dressing-table, and set down the light upon it.
The smile that played on Mr. Pickwick's features was instantaneously lost in a look of the most unbounded and wonder-stricken surprise. The person, whoever it was, had come in so suddenly and with so little noise, that Mr. Pickwick had no time to call out, or oppose their entrance. Who could it be? A robber! Some evil-minded person who had seen him come up-stairs with a handsome watch in his hand, perhaps. What was he to do? The only way in which Mr. Pickwick could catch a glimpse of his mysterious visitor, with the least danger of being seen himself, was by creeping on to the bed, and peeping out from between the curtains on the opposite side.