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The Pickwick Papers

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CHAPTER VI. AN OLD-FASHIONED CARD-PARTY—THE CLERGYMAN’S VERSES—THE STORY OF THE CONVICT’S RETURN

Several guests who were assembled in the old parlour rose to greet Mr. Pickwick and his friends upon their entrance; and during the performance of the ceremony of introduction, with all due formalities, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to observe the appearance, and speculate upon the characters and pursuits, of the persons by whom he was surrounded—a habit in which he, in common with many other great men, delighted to indulge.

A very old lady, in a lofty cap and faded silk gown—no less a personage than Mr. Wardle’s mother—occupied the post of honour on the right-hand corner of the chimney-piece; and various certificates of her having been brought up in the way she should go when young, and of her not having departed from it when old, ornamented the walls, in the form of samplers of ancient date, worsted landscapes of equal antiquity, and crimson silk tea-kettle holders of a more modern period. The aunt, the two young ladies, and Mr. Wardle, each vying with the other in paying zealous and unremitting attentions to the old lady, crowded round her easy-chair, one holding her ear-trumpet, another an orange, and a third a smelling-bottle, while a fourth was busily engaged in patting and punching the pillows which were arranged for her support. On the opposite side sat a bald-headed old gentleman, with a good-humoured, benevolent face—the clergyman of Dingley Dell; and next him sat his wife, a stout, blooming old lady, who looked as if she were well skilled, not only in the art and mystery of manufacturing home-made cordials greatly to other people’s satisfaction, but of tasting them occasionally very much to her own. A little hard-headed, Ripstone pippin-faced man, was conversing with a fat old gentleman in one corner; and two or three more old gentlemen, and two or three more old ladies, sat bolt upright and motionless on their chairs, staring very hard at Mr. Pickwick and his fellow-voyagers.

‘Mr. Pickwick, mother,’ said Mr. Wardle, at the very top of his voice.

‘Ah!’ said the old lady, shaking her head; ‘I can’t hear you.’

‘Mr. Pickwick, grandma!’ screamed both the young ladies together.

‘Ah!’ exclaimed the old lady. ‘Well, it don’t much matter. He don’t care for an old ‘ooman like me, I dare say.’

‘I assure you, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, grasping the old lady’s hand, and speaking so loud that the exertion imparted a crimson hue to his benevolent countenance—‘I assure you, ma’am, that nothing delights me more than to see a lady of your time of life heading so fine a family, and looking so young and well.’

‘Ah!’ said the old lady, after a short pause: ‘it’s all very fine, I dare say; but I can’t hear him.’

‘Grandma’s rather put out now,’ said Miss Isabella Wardle, in a low tone; ‘but she’ll talk to you presently.’

Mr. Pickwick nodded his readiness to humour the infirmities of age, and entered into a general conversation with the other members of the circle.

‘Delightful situation this,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Delightful!’ echoed Messrs. Snodgrass, Tupman, and Winkle.

‘Well, I think it is,’ said Mr. Wardle.

‘There ain’t a better spot o’ ground in all Kent, sir,’ said the hard-headed man with the pippin—face; ‘there ain’t indeed, sir—I’m sure there ain’t, Sir.’ The hard-headed man looked triumphantly round, as if he had been very much contradicted by somebody, but had got the better of him at last.

‘There ain’t a better spot o’ ground in all Kent,’ said the hard-headed man again, after a pause.

‘’Cept Mullins’s Meadows,’ observed the fat man solemnly.

‘Mullins’s Meadows!’ ejaculated the other, with profound contempt.

‘Ah, Mullins’s Meadows,’ repeated the fat man.

‘Reg’lar good land that,’ interposed another fat man.

‘And so it is, sure-ly,’ said a third fat man.

‘Everybody knows that,’ said the corpulent host.

The hard-headed man looked dubiously round, but finding himself in a minority, assumed a compassionate air and said no more.

‘What are they talking about?’ inquired the old lady of one of her granddaughters, in a very audible voice; for, like many deaf people, she never seemed to calculate on the possibility of other persons hearing what she said herself.

‘About the land, grandma.’

‘What about the land?—Nothing the matter, is there?’

‘No, no. Mr. Miller was saying our land was better than Mullins’s Meadows.’

‘How should he know anything about it?’ inquired the old lady indignantly. ‘Miller’s a conceited coxcomb, and you may tell him I said so.’ Saying which, the old lady, quite unconscious that she had spoken above a whisper, drew herself up, and looked carving-knives at the hard-headed delinquent.

‘Come, come,’ said the bustling host, with a natural anxiety to change the conversation, ‘what say you to a rubber, Mr. Pickwick?’

‘I should like it of all things,’ replied that gentleman; ‘but pray don’t make up one on my account.’

‘Oh, I assure you, mother’s very fond of a rubber,’ said Mr. Wardle; ‘ain’t you, mother?’

The old lady, who was much less deaf on this subject than on any other, replied in the affirmative.

‘Joe, Joe!’ said the gentleman; ‘Joe—damn that—oh, here he is; put out the card-tables.’

The lethargic youth contrived without any additional rousing to set out two card-tables; the one for Pope Joan, and the other for whist. The whist-players were Mr. Pickwick and the old lady, Mr. Miller and the fat gentleman. The round game comprised the rest of the company.

The rubber was conducted with all that gravity of deportment and sedateness of demeanour which befit the pursuit entitled ‘whist’—a solemn observance, to which, as it appears to us, the title of ‘game’ has been very irreverently and ignominiously applied. The round-game table, on the other hand, was so boisterously merry as materially to interrupt the contemplations of Mr. Miller, who, not being quite so much absorbed as he ought to have been, contrived to commit various high crimes and misdemeanours, which excited the wrath of the fat gentleman to a very great extent, and called forth the good-humour of the old lady in a proportionate degree.

‘There!’ said the criminal Miller triumphantly, as he took up the odd trick at the conclusion of a hand; ‘that could not have been played better, I flatter myself; impossible to have made another trick!’

‘Miller ought to have trumped the diamond, oughtn’t he, Sir?’ said the old lady.

Mr. Pickwick nodded assent.

‘Ought I, though?’ said the unfortunate, with a doubtful appeal to his partner.

‘You ought, Sir,’ said the fat gentleman, in an awful voice.

‘Very sorry,’ said the crestfallen Miller.

‘Much use that,’ growled the fat gentleman.

‘Two by honours—makes us eight,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Another hand. ‘Can you one?’ inquired the old lady.

‘I can,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Double, single, and the rub.’

‘Never was such luck,’ said Mr. Miller.

‘Never was such cards,’ said the fat gentleman.

A solemn silence; Mr. Pickwick humorous, the old lady serious, the fat gentleman captious, and Mr. Miller timorous.

‘Another double,’ said the old lady, triumphantly making a memorandum of the circumstance, by placing one sixpence and a battered halfpenny under the candlestick.

‘A double, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Quite aware of the fact, Sir,’ replied the fat gentleman sharply.

Another game, with a similar result, was followed by a revoke from the unlucky Miller; on which the fat gentleman burst into a state of high personal excitement which lasted until the conclusion of the game, when he retired into a corner, and remained perfectly mute for one hour and twenty-seven minutes; at the end of which time he emerged from his retirement, and offered Mr. Pickwick a pinch of snuff with the air of a man who had made up his mind to a Christian forgiveness of injuries sustained. The old lady’s hearing decidedly improved and the unlucky Miller felt as much out of his element as a dolphin in a sentry-box.

Meanwhile the round game proceeded right merrily. Isabella Wardle and Mr. Trundle ‘went partners,’ and Emily Wardle and Mr. Snodgrass did the same; and even Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt established a joint-stock company of fish and flattery. Old Mr. Wardle was in the very height of his jollity; and he was so funny in his management of the board, and the old ladies were so sharp after their winnings, that the whole table was in a perpetual roar of merriment and laughter. There was one old lady who always had about half a dozen cards to pay for, at which everybody laughed, regularly every round; and when the old lady looked cross at having to pay, they laughed louder than ever; on which the old lady’s face gradually brightened up, till at last she laughed louder than any of them, Then, when the spinster aunt got ‘matrimony,’ the young ladies laughed afresh, and the Spinster aunt seemed disposed to be pettish; till, feeling Mr. Tupman squeezing her hand under the table, she brightened up too, and looked rather knowing, as if matrimony in reality were not quite so far off as some people thought for; whereupon everybody laughed again, and especially old Mr. Wardle, who enjoyed a joke as much as the youngest. As to Mr. Snodgrass, he did nothing but whisper poetical sentiments into his partner’s ear, which made one old gentleman facetiously sly, about partnerships at cards and partnerships for life, and caused the aforesaid old gentleman to make some remarks thereupon, accompanied with divers winks and chuckles, which made the company very merry and the old gentleman’s wife especially so. And Mr. Winkle came out with jokes which are very well known in town, but are not all known in the country; and as everybody laughed at them very heartily, and said they were very capital, Mr. Winkle was in a state of great honour and glory. And the benevolent clergyman looked pleasantly on; for the happy faces which surrounded the table made the good old man feel happy too; and though the merriment was rather boisterous, still it came from the heart and not from the lips; and this is the right sort of merriment, after all.

The evening glided swiftly away, in these cheerful recreations; and when the substantial though homely supper had been despatched, and the little party formed a social circle round the fire, Mr. Pickwick thought he had never felt so happy in his life, and at no time so much disposed to enjoy, and make the most of, the passing moment.

‘Now this,’ said the hospitable host, who was sitting in great state next the old lady’s arm-chair, with her hand fast clasped in his—‘this is just what I like—the happiest moments of my life have been passed at this old fireside; and I am so attached to it, that I keep up a blazing fire here every evening, until it actually grows too hot to bear it. Why, my poor old mother, here, used to sit before this fireplace upon that little stool when she was a girl; didn’t you, mother?’

The tear which starts unbidden to the eye when the recollection of old times and the happiness of many years ago is suddenly recalled, stole down the old lady’s face as she shook her head with a melancholy smile.

‘You must excuse my talking about this old place, Mr. Pickwick,’ resumed the host, after a short pause, ‘for I love it dearly, and know no other—the old houses and fields seem like living friends to me; and so does our little church with the ivy, about which, by the bye, our excellent friend there made a song when he first came amongst us. Mr. Snodgrass, have you anything in your glass?’

‘Plenty, thank you,’ replied that gentleman, whose poetic curiosity had been greatly excited by the last observation of his entertainer. ‘I beg your pardon, but you were talking about the song of the Ivy.’

‘You must ask our friend opposite about that,’ said the host knowingly, indicating the clergyman by a nod of his head.

‘May I say that I should like to hear you repeat it, sir?’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Why, really,’ replied the clergyman, ‘it’s a very slight affair; and the only excuse I have for having ever perpetrated it is, that I was a young man at the time. Such as it is, however, you shall hear it, if you wish.’

A murmur of curiosity was of course the reply; and the old gentleman proceeded to recite, with the aid of sundry promptings from his wife, the lines in question. ‘I call them,’ said he,

       THE IVY GREEN

     Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
     That creepeth o’er ruins old!
     Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
     In his cell so lone and cold.
     The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
     To pleasure his dainty whim;
     And the mouldering dust that years have made,
     Is a merry meal for him.
          Creeping where no life is seen,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

     Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
     And a staunch old heart has he.
     How closely he twineth, how tight he clings
     To his friend the huge Oak Tree!
     And slily he traileth along the ground,
     And his leaves he gently waves,
     As he joyously hugs and crawleth round
     The rich mould of dead men’s graves.
          Creeping where grim death has been,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

     Whole ages have fled and their works decayed,
     And nations have scattered been;
     But the stout old Ivy shall never fade,
     From its hale and hearty green.
     The brave old plant in its lonely days,
     Shall fatten upon the past;
     For the stateliest building man can raise,
     Is the Ivy’s food at last.
          Creeping on where time has been,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.


While the old gentleman repeated these lines a second time, to enable Mr. Snodgrass to note them down, Mr. Pickwick perused the lineaments of his face with an expression of great interest. The old gentleman having concluded his dictation, and Mr. Snodgrass having returned his note-book to his pocket, Mr. Pickwick said—

‘Excuse me, sir, for making the remark on so short an acquaintance; but a gentleman like yourself cannot fail, I should think, to have observed many scenes and incidents worth recording, in the course of your experience as a minister of the Gospel.’

‘I have witnessed some certainly,’ replied the old gentleman, ‘but the incidents and characters have been of a homely and ordinary nature, my sphere of action being so very limited.’

‘You did make some notes, I think, about John Edmunds, did you not?’ inquired Mr. Wardle, who appeared very desirous to draw his friend out, for the edification of his new visitors.

The old gentleman slightly nodded his head in token of assent, and was proceeding to change the subject, when Mr. Pickwick said—

‘I beg your pardon, sir, but pray, if I may venture to inquire, who was John Edmunds?’

‘The very thing I was about to ask,’ said Mr. Snodgrass eagerly.

‘You are fairly in for it,’ said the jolly host. ‘You must satisfy the curiosity of these gentlemen, sooner or later; so you had better take advantage of this favourable opportunity, and do so at once.’

The old gentleman smiled good-humouredly as he drew his chair forward—the remainder of the party drew their chairs closer together, especially Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt, who were possibly rather hard of hearing; and the old lady’s ear-trumpet having been duly adjusted, and Mr. Miller (who had fallen asleep during the recital of the verses) roused from his slumbers by an admonitory pinch, administered beneath the table by his ex-partner the solemn fat man, the old gentleman, without further preface, commenced the following tale, to which we have taken the liberty of prefixing the title of

  THE CONVICT’S RETURN

‘When I first settled in this village,’ said the old gentleman, ‘which is now just five-and-twenty years ago, the most notorious person among my parishioners was a man of the name of Edmunds, who leased a small farm near this spot. He was a morose, savage-hearted, bad man; idle and dissolute in his habits; cruel and ferocious in his disposition. Beyond the few lazy and reckless vagabonds with whom he sauntered away his time in the fields, or sotted in the ale-house, he had not a single friend or acquaintance; no one cared to speak to the man whom many feared, and every one detested—and Edmunds was shunned by all.

‘This man had a wife and one son, who, when I first came here, was about twelve years old. Of the acuteness of that woman’s sufferings, of the gentle and enduring manner in which she bore them, of the agony of solicitude with which she reared that boy, no one can form an adequate conception. Heaven forgive me the supposition, if it be an uncharitable one, but I do firmly and in my soul believe, that the man systematically tried for many years to break her heart; but she bore it all for her child’s sake, and, however strange it may seem to many, for his father’s too; for brute as he was, and cruelly as he had treated her, she had loved him once; and the recollection of what he had been to her, awakened feelings of forbearance and meekness under suffering in her bosom, to which all God’s creatures, but women, are strangers.

‘They were poor—they could not be otherwise when the man pursued such courses; but the woman’s unceasing and unwearied exertions, early and late, morning, noon, and night, kept them above actual want. These exertions were but ill repaid. People who passed the spot in the evening—sometimes at a late hour of the night—reported that they had heard the moans and sobs of a woman in distress, and the sound of blows; and more than once, when it was past midnight, the boy knocked softly at the door of a neighbour’s house, whither he had been sent, to escape the drunken fury of his unnatural father.

‘During the whole of this time, and when the poor creature often bore about her marks of ill-usage and violence which she could not wholly conceal, she was a constant attendant at our little church. Regularly every Sunday, morning and afternoon, she occupied the same seat with the boy at her side; and though they were both poorly dressed—much more so than many of their neighbours who were in a lower station—they were always neat and clean. Every one had a friendly nod and a kind word for “poor Mrs. Edmunds”; and sometimes, when she stopped to exchange a few words with a neighbour at the conclusion of the service in the little row of elm-trees which leads to the church porch, or lingered behind to gaze with a mother’s pride and fondness upon her healthy boy, as he sported before her with some little companions, her careworn face would lighten up with an expression of heartfelt gratitude; and she would look, if not cheerful and happy, at least tranquil and contented.

‘Five or six years passed away; the boy had become a robust and well-grown youth. The time that had strengthened the child’s slight frame and knit his weak limbs into the strength of manhood had bowed his mother’s form, and enfeebled her steps; but the arm that should have supported her was no longer locked in hers; the face that should have cheered her, no more looked upon her own. She occupied her old seat, but there was a vacant one beside her. The Bible was kept as carefully as ever, the places were found and folded down as they used to be: but there was no one to read it with her; and the tears fell thick and fast upon the book, and blotted the words from her eyes. Neighbours were as kind as they were wont to be of old, but she shunned their greetings with averted head. There was no lingering among the old elm-trees now—no cheering anticipations of happiness yet in store. The desolate woman drew her bonnet closer over her face, and walked hurriedly away.

‘Shall I tell you that the young man, who, looking back to the earliest of his childhood’s days to which memory and consciousness extended, and carrying his recollection down to that moment, could remember nothing which was not in some way connected with a long series of voluntary privations suffered by his mother for his sake, with ill-usage, and insult, and violence, and all endured for him—shall I tell you, that he, with a reckless disregard for her breaking heart, and a sullen, wilful forgetfulness of all she had done and borne for him, had linked himself with depraved and abandoned men, and was madly pursuing a headlong career, which must bring death to him, and shame to her? Alas for human nature! You have anticipated it long since.

‘The measure of the unhappy woman’s misery and misfortune was about to be completed. Numerous offences had been committed in the neighbourhood; the perpetrators remained undiscovered, and their boldness increased. A robbery of a daring and aggravated nature occasioned a vigilance of pursuit, and a strictness of search, they had not calculated on. Young Edmunds was suspected, with three companions. He was apprehended—committed—tried—condemned—to die.

‘The wild and piercing shriek from a woman’s voice, which resounded through the court when the solemn sentence was pronounced, rings in my ears at this moment. That cry struck a terror to the culprit’s heart, which trial, condemnation—the approach of death itself, had failed to awaken. The lips which had been compressed in dogged sullenness throughout, quivered and parted involuntarily; the face turned ashy pale as the cold perspiration broke forth from every pore; the sturdy limbs of the felon trembled, and he staggered in the dock.

‘In the first transports of her mental anguish, the suffering mother threw herself on her knees at my feet, and fervently sought the Almighty Being who had hitherto supported her in all her troubles to release her from a world of woe and misery, and to spare the life of her only child. A burst of grief, and a violent struggle, such as I hope I may never have to witness again, succeeded. I knew that her heart was breaking from that hour; but I never once heard complaint or murmur escape her lips.

‘It was a piteous spectacle to see that woman in the prison-yard from day to day, eagerly and fervently attempting, by affection and entreaty, to soften the hard heart of her obdurate son. It was in vain. He remained moody, obstinate, and unmoved. Not even the unlooked-for commutation of his sentence to transportation for fourteen years, softened for an instant the sullen hardihood of his demeanour.

‘But the spirit of resignation and endurance that had so long upheld her, was unable to contend against bodily weakness and infirmity. She fell sick. She dragged her tottering limbs from the bed to visit her son once more, but her strength failed her, and she sank powerless on the ground.

‘And now the boasted coldness and indifference of the young man were tested indeed; and the retribution that fell heavily upon him nearly drove him mad. A day passed away and his mother was not there; another flew by, and she came not near him; a third evening arrived, and yet he had not seen her—, and in four-and-twenty hours he was to be separated from her, perhaps for ever. Oh! how the long-forgotten thoughts of former days rushed upon his mind, as he almost ran up and down the narrow yard—as if intelligence would arrive the sooner for his hurrying—and how bitterly a sense of his helplessness and desolation rushed upon him, when he heard the truth! His mother, the only parent he had ever known, lay ill—it might be, dying—within one mile of the ground he stood on; were he free and unfettered, a few minutes would place him by her side. He rushed to the gate, and grasping the iron rails with the energy of desperation, shook it till it rang again, and threw himself against the thick wall as if to force a passage through the stone; but the strong building mocked his feeble efforts, and he beat his hands together and wept like a child.

‘I bore the mother’s forgiveness and blessing to her son in prison; and I carried the solemn assurance of repentance, and his fervent supplication for pardon, to her sick-bed. I heard, with pity and compassion, the repentant man devise a thousand little plans for her comfort and support when he returned; but I knew that many months before he could reach his place of destination, his mother would be no longer of this world.

‘He was removed by night. A few weeks afterwards the poor woman’s soul took its flight, I confidently hope, and solemnly believe, to a place of eternal happiness and rest. I performed the burial service over her remains. She lies in our little churchyard. There is no stone at her grave’s head. Her sorrows were known to man; her virtues to God.

‘It had been arranged previously to the convict’s departure, that he should write to his mother as soon as he could obtain permission, and that the letter should be addressed to me. The father had positively refused to see his son from the moment of his apprehension; and it was a matter of indifference to him whether he lived or died. Many years passed over without any intelligence of him; and when more than half his term of transportation had expired, and I had received no letter, I concluded him to be dead, as, indeed, I almost hoped he might be.

‘Edmunds, however, had been sent a considerable distance up the country on his arrival at the settlement; and to this circumstance, perhaps, may be attributed the fact, that though several letters were despatched, none of them ever reached my hands. He remained in the same place during the whole fourteen years. At the expiration of the term, steadily adhering to his old resolution and the pledge he gave his mother, he made his way back to England amidst innumerable difficulties, and returned, on foot, to his native place.

‘On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John Edmunds set foot in the village he had left with shame and disgrace seventeen years before. His nearest way lay through the churchyard. The man’s heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast here and there a rich ray of light upon the shady part, awakened the associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother’s hand, and walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she gazed upon his features—tears which fell hot upon his forehead as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too, although he little knew then what bitter tears hers were. He thought how often he had run merrily down that path with some childish playfellow, looking back, ever and again, to catch his mother’s smile, or hear her gentle voice; and then a veil seemed lifted from his memory, and words of kindness unrequited, and warnings despised, and promises broken, thronged upon his recollection till his heart failed him, and he could bear it no longer.

‘He entered the church. The evening service was concluded and the congregation had dispersed, but it was not yet closed. His steps echoed through the low building with a hollow sound, and he almost feared to be alone, it was so still and quiet. He looked round him. Nothing was changed. The place seemed smaller than it used to be; but there were the old monuments on which he had gazed with childish awe a thousand times; the little pulpit with its faded cushion; the Communion table before which he had so often repeated the Commandments he had reverenced as a child, and forgotten as a man. He approached the old seat; it looked cold and desolate. The cushion had been removed, and the Bible was not there. Perhaps his mother now occupied a poorer seat, or possibly she had grown infirm and could not reach the church alone. He dared not think of what he feared. A cold feeling crept over him, and he trembled violently as he turned away. ‘An old man entered the porch just as he reached it. Edmunds started back, for he knew him well; many a time he had watched him digging graves in the churchyard. What would he say to the returned convict?

‘The old man raised his eyes to the stranger’s face, bade him “good-evening,” and walked slowly on. He had forgotten him.

‘He walked down the hill, and through the village. The weather was warm, and the people were sitting at their doors, or strolling in their little gardens as he passed, enjoying the serenity of the evening, and their rest from labour. Many a look was turned towards him, and many a doubtful glance he cast on either side to see whether any knew and shunned him. There were strange faces in almost every house; in some he recognised the burly form of some old schoolfellow—a boy when he last saw him—surrounded by a troop of merry children; in others he saw, seated in an easy-chair at a cottage door, a feeble and infirm old man, whom he only remembered as a hale and hearty labourer; but they had all forgotten him, and he passed on unknown.

‘The last soft light of the setting sun had fallen on the earth, casting a rich glow on the yellow corn sheaves, and lengthening the shadows of the orchard trees, as he stood before the old house—the home of his infancy—to which his heart had yearned with an intensity of affection not to be described, through long and weary years of captivity and sorrow. The paling was low, though he well remembered the time that it had seemed a high wall to him; and he looked over into the old garden. There were more seeds and gayer flowers than there used to be, but there were the old trees still—the very tree under which he had lain a thousand times when tired of playing in the sun, and felt the soft, mild sleep of happy boyhood steal gently upon him. There were voices within the house. He listened, but they fell strangely upon his ear; he knew them not. They were merry too; and he well knew that his poor old mother could not be cheerful, and he away. The door opened, and a group of little children bounded out, shouting and romping. The father, with a little boy in his arms, appeared at the door, and they crowded round him, clapping their tiny hands, and dragging him out, to join their joyous sports. The convict thought on the many times he had shrunk from his father’s sight in that very place. He remembered how often he had buried his trembling head beneath the bedclothes, and heard the harsh word, and the hard stripe, and his mother’s wailing; and though the man sobbed aloud with agony of mind as he left the spot, his fist was clenched, and his teeth were set, in a fierce and deadly passion.

‘And such was the return to which he had looked through the weary perspective of many years, and for which he had undergone so much suffering! No face of welcome, no look of forgiveness, no house to receive, no hand to help him—and this too in the old village. What was his loneliness in the wild, thick woods, where man was never seen, to this!

‘He felt that in the distant land of his bondage and infamy, he had thought of his native place as it was when he left it; and not as it would be when he returned. The sad reality struck coldly at his heart, and his spirit sank within him. He had not courage to make inquiries, or to present himself to the only person who was likely to receive him with kindness and compassion. He walked slowly on; and shunning the roadside like a guilty man, turned into a meadow he well remembered; and covering his face with his hands, threw himself upon the grass.

‘He had not observed that a man was lying on the bank beside him; his garments rustled as he turned round to steal a look at the new-comer; and Edmunds raised his head.

‘The man had moved into a sitting posture. His body was much bent, and his face was wrinkled and yellow. His dress denoted him an inmate of the workhouse: he had the appearance of being very old, but it looked more the effect of dissipation or disease, than the length of years. He was staring hard at the stranger, and though his eyes were lustreless and heavy at first, they appeared to glow with an unnatural and alarmed expression after they had been fixed upon him for a short time, until they seemed to be starting from their sockets. Edmunds gradually raised himself to his knees, and looked more and more earnestly on the old man’s face. They gazed upon each other in silence.

‘The old man was ghastly pale. He shuddered and tottered to his feet. Edmunds sprang to his. He stepped back a pace or two. Edmunds advanced.

‘“Let me hear you speak,” said the convict, in a thick, broken voice.

‘“Stand off!” cried the old man, with a dreadful oath. The convict drew closer to him.

‘“Stand off!” shrieked the old man. Furious with terror, he raised his stick, and struck Edmunds a heavy blow across the face.

‘“Father—devil!” murmured the convict between his set teeth. He rushed wildly forward, and clenched the old man by the throat—but he was his father; and his arm fell powerless by his side.

‘The old man uttered a loud yell which rang through the lonely fields like the howl of an evil spirit. His face turned black, the gore rushed from his mouth and nose, and dyed the grass a deep, dark red, as he staggered and fell. He had ruptured a blood-vessel, and he was a dead man before his son could raise him.


‘In that corner of the churchyard,’ said the old gentleman, after a silence of a few moments, ‘in that corner of the churchyard of which I have before spoken, there lies buried a man who was in my employment for three years after this event, and who was truly contrite, penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man’s lifetime who he was, or whence he came—it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.’






CHAPTER VII. HOW MR. WINKLE, INSTEAD OF SHOOTING AT THE PIGEON AND KILLING THE CROW, SHOT AT THE CROW AND WOUNDED THE PIGEON; HOW THE DINGLEY DELL CRICKET CLUB PLAYED ALL-MUGGLETON, AND HOW ALL-MUGGLETON DINED AT THE DINGLEY DELL EXPENSE; WITH OTHER INTERESTING AND INSTRUCTIVE MATTERS

The fatiguing adventures of the day or the somniferous influence of the clergyman’s tale operated so strongly on the drowsy tendencies of Mr. Pickwick, that in less than five minutes after he had been shown to his comfortable bedroom he fell into a sound and dreamless sleep, from which he was only awakened by the morning sun darting his bright beams reproachfully into the apartment. Mr. Pickwick was no sluggard, and he sprang like an ardent warrior from his tent-bedstead.

‘Pleasant, pleasant country,’ sighed the enthusiastic gentleman, as he opened his lattice window. ‘Who could live to gaze from day to day on bricks and slates who had once felt the influence of a scene like this? Who could continue to exist where there are no cows but the cows on the chimney-pots; nothing redolent of Pan but pan-tiles; no crop but stone crop? Who could bear to drag out a life in such a spot? Who, I ask, could endure it?’ and, having cross-examined solitude after the most approved precedents, at considerable length, Mr. Pickwick thrust his head out of the lattice and looked around him.

The rich, sweet smell of the hay-ricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air; and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were to them a fountain of inspiration. Mr. Pickwick fell into an enchanting and delicious reverie.

‘Hollo!’ was the sound that roused him.

He looked to the right, but he saw nobody; his eyes wandered to the left, and pierced the prospect; he stared into the sky, but he wasn’t wanted there; and then he did what a common mind would have done at once—looked into the garden, and there saw Mr. Wardle.

‘How are you?’ said the good-humoured individual, out of breath with his own anticipations of pleasure.‘Beautiful morning, ain’t it? Glad to see you up so early. Make haste down, and come out. I’ll wait for you here.’

Mr. Pickwick needed no second invitation. Ten minutes sufficed for the completion of his toilet, and at the expiration of that time he was by the old gentleman’s side.

‘Hollo!’ said Mr. Pickwick in his turn, seeing that his companion was armed with a gun, and that another lay ready on the grass; ‘what’s going forward?’

‘Why, your friend and I,’ replied the host, ‘are going out rook-shooting before breakfast. He’s a very good shot, ain’t he?’

‘I’ve heard him say he’s a capital one,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘but I never saw him aim at anything.’

‘Well,’ said the host, ‘I wish he’d come. Joe—Joe!’

The fat boy, who under the exciting influence of the morning did not appear to be more than three parts and a fraction asleep, emerged from the house.

‘Go up, and call the gentleman, and tell him he’ll find me and Mr. Pickwick in the rookery. Show the gentleman the way there; d’ye hear?’

The boy departed to execute his commission; and the host, carrying both guns like a second Robinson Crusoe, led the way from the garden.

‘This is the place,’ said the old gentleman, pausing after a few minutes walking, in an avenue of trees. The information was unnecessary; for the incessant cawing of the unconscious rooks sufficiently indicated their whereabouts.

The old gentleman laid one gun on the ground, and loaded the other.

‘Here they are,’ said Mr. Pickwick; and, as he spoke, the forms of Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Winkle appeared in the distance. The fat boy, not being quite certain which gentleman he was directed to call, had with peculiar sagacity, and to prevent the possibility of any mistake, called them all.

‘Come along,’ shouted the old gentleman, addressing Mr. Winkle; ‘a keen hand like you ought to have been up long ago, even to such poor work as this.’

Mr. Winkle responded with a forced smile, and took up the spare gun with an expression of countenance which a metaphysical rook, impressed with a foreboding of his approaching death by violence, may be supposed to assume. It might have been keenness, but it looked remarkably like misery.

The old gentleman nodded; and two ragged boys who had been marshalled to the spot under the direction of the infant Lambert, forthwith commenced climbing up two of the trees.

‘What are these lads for?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick abruptly. He was rather alarmed; for he was not quite certain but that the distress of the agricultural interest, about which he had often heard a great deal, might have compelled the small boys attached to the soil to earn a precarious and hazardous subsistence by making marks of themselves for inexperienced sportsmen.

‘Only to start the game,’ replied Mr. Wardle, laughing.

‘To what?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, in plain English, to frighten the rooks.’

‘Oh, is that all?’

‘You are satisfied?’

‘Quite.’

‘Very well. Shall I begin?’

‘If you please,’ said Mr. Winkle, glad of any respite.

‘Stand aside, then. Now for it.’

The boy shouted, and shook a branch with a nest on it. Half a dozen young rooks in violent conversation, flew out to ask what the matter was. The old gentleman fired by way of reply. Down fell one bird, and off flew the others.

‘Take him up, Joe,’ said the old gentleman.

There was a smile upon the youth’s face as he advanced. Indistinct visions of rook-pie floated through his imagination. He laughed as he retired with the bird—it was a plump one.

‘Now, Mr. Winkle,’ said the host, reloading his own gun. ‘Fire away.’

Mr. Winkle advanced, and levelled his gun. Mr. Pickwick and his friends cowered involuntarily to escape damage from the heavy fall of rooks, which they felt quite certain would be occasioned by the devastating barrel of their friend. There was a solemn pause—a shout—a flapping of wings—a faint click.

‘Hollo!’ said the old gentleman.

‘Won’t it go?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Missed fire,’ said Mr. Winkle, who was very pale—probably from disappointment.

‘Odd,’ said the old gentleman, taking the gun. ‘Never knew one of them miss fire before. Why, I don’t see anything of the cap.’

Bless my soul!’ said Mr. Winkle, ‘I declare I forgot the cap!’

The slight omission was rectified. Mr. Pickwick crouched again. Mr. Winkle stepped forward with an air of determination and resolution; and Mr. Tupman looked out from behind a tree. The boy shouted; four birds flew out. Mr. Winkle fired. There was a scream as of an individual—not a rook—in corporal anguish. Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in his left arm.

To describe the confusion that ensued would be impossible. To tell how Mr. Pickwick in the first transports of emotion called Mr. Winkle ‘Wretch!’ how Mr. Tupman lay prostrate on the ground; and how Mr. Winkle knelt horror-stricken beside him; how Mr. Tupman called distractedly upon some feminine Christian name, and then opened first one eye, and then the other, and then fell back and shut them both—all this would be as difficult to describe in detail, as it would be to depict the gradual recovering of the unfortunate individual, the binding up of his arm with pocket-handkerchiefs, and the conveying him back by slow degrees supported by the arms of his anxious friends.

They drew near the house. The ladies were at the garden gate, waiting for their arrival and their breakfast. The spinster aunt appeared; she smiled, and beckoned them to walk quicker. ‘Twas evident she knew not of the disaster. Poor thing! there are times when ignorance is bliss indeed.

They approached nearer.

‘Why, what is the matter with the little old gentleman?’ said Isabella Wardle. The spinster aunt heeded not the remark; she thought it applied to Mr. Pickwick. In her eyes Tracy Tupman was a youth; she viewed his years through a diminishing glass.

‘Don’t be frightened,’ called out the old host, fearful of alarming his daughters. The little party had crowded so completely round Mr. Tupman, that they could not yet clearly discern the nature of the accident.

‘Don’t be frightened,’ said the host.

‘What’s the matter?’ screamed the ladies.

‘Mr. Tupman has met with a little accident; that’s all.’

The spinster aunt uttered a piercing scream, burst into an hysteric laugh, and fell backwards in the arms of her nieces.

‘Throw some cold water over her,’ said the old gentleman.

‘No, no,’ murmured the spinster aunt; ‘I am better now. Bella, Emily—a surgeon! Is he wounded?—Is he dead?—Is he—Ha, ha, ha!’ Here the spinster aunt burst into fit number two, of hysteric laughter interspersed with screams.

‘Calm yourself,’ said Mr. Tupman, affected almost to tears by this expression of sympathy with his sufferings. ‘Dear, dear madam, calm yourself.’

‘It is his voice!’ exclaimed the spinster aunt; and strong symptoms of fit number three developed themselves forthwith.

‘Do not agitate yourself, I entreat you, dearest madam,’ said Mr. Tupman soothingly. ‘I am very little hurt, I assure you.’

‘Then you are not dead!’ ejaculated the hysterical lady. ‘Oh, say you are not dead!’

‘Don’t be a fool, Rachael,’ interposed Mr. Wardle, rather more roughly than was consistent with the poetic nature of the scene. ‘What the devil’s the use of his saying he isn’t dead?’

‘No, no, I am not,’ said Mr. Tupman. ‘I require no assistance but yours. Let me lean on your arm.’ He added, in a whisper, ‘Oh, Miss Rachael!’ The agitated female advanced, and offered her arm. They turned into the breakfast parlour. Mr. Tracy Tupman gently pressed her hand to his lips, and sank upon the sofa.

‘Are you faint?’ inquired the anxious Rachael.

‘No,’ said Mr. Tupman. ‘It is nothing. I shall be better presently.’ He closed his eyes.

‘He sleeps,’ murmured the spinster aunt. (His organs of vision had been closed nearly twenty seconds.) ‘Dear—dear—Mr. Tupman!’

Mr. Tupman jumped up—‘Oh, say those words again!’ he exclaimed.

The lady started. ‘Surely you did not hear them!’ she said bashfully.

‘Oh, yes, I did!’ replied Mr. Tupman; ‘repeat them. If you would have me recover, repeat them.’

Hush!’ said the lady. ‘My brother.’ Mr. Tracy Tupman resumed his former position; and Mr. Wardle, accompanied by a surgeon, entered the room.

The arm was examined, the wound dressed, and pronounced to be a very slight one; and the minds of the company having been thus satisfied, they proceeded to satisfy their appetites with countenances to which an expression of cheerfulness was again restored. Mr. Pickwick alone was silent and reserved. Doubt and distrust were exhibited in his countenance. His confidence in Mr. Winkle had been shaken—greatly shaken—by the proceedings of the morning.

‘Are you a cricketer?’ inquired Mr. Wardle of the marksman.

At any other time, Mr. Winkle would have replied in the affirmative. He felt the delicacy of his situation, and modestly replied, ‘No.’

‘Are you, sir?’ inquired Mr. Snodgrass.

‘I was once upon a time,’ replied the host; ‘but I have given it up now. I subscribe to the club here, but I don’t play.’

‘The grand match is played to-day, I believe,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘It is,’ replied the host. ‘Of course you would like to see it.’

‘I, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘am delighted to view any sports which may be safely indulged in, and in which the impotent effects of unskilful people do not endanger human life.’ Mr. Pickwick paused, and looked steadily on Mr. Winkle, who quailed beneath his leader’s searching glance. The great man withdrew his eyes after a few minutes, and added: ‘Shall we be justified in leaving our wounded friend to the care of the ladies?’

‘You cannot leave me in better hands,’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘Quite impossible,’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

It was therefore settled that Mr. Tupman should be left at home in charge of the females; and that the remainder of the guests, under the guidance of Mr. Wardle, should proceed to the spot where was to be held that trial of skill, which had roused all Muggleton from its torpor, and inoculated Dingley Dell with a fever of excitement.

As their walk, which was not above two miles long, lay through shady lanes and sequestered footpaths, and as their conversation turned upon the delightful scenery by which they were on every side surrounded, Mr. Pickwick was almost inclined to regret the expedition they had used, when he found himself in the main street of the town of Muggleton.

Everybody whose genius has a topographical bent knows perfectly well that Muggleton is a corporate town, with a mayor, burgesses, and freemen; and anybody who has consulted the addresses of the mayor to the freemen, or the freemen to the mayor, or both to the corporation, or all three to Parliament, will learn from thence what they ought to have known before, that Muggleton is an ancient and loyal borough, mingling a zealous advocacy of Christian principles with a devoted attachment to commercial rights; in demonstration whereof, the mayor, corporation, and other inhabitants, have presented at divers times, no fewer than one thousand four hundred and twenty petitions against the continuance of negro slavery abroad, and an equal number against any interference with the factory system at home; sixty-eight in favour of the sale of livings in the Church, and eighty-six for abolishing Sunday trading in the street.

Mr. Pickwick stood in the principal street of this illustrious town, and gazed with an air of curiosity, not unmixed with interest, on the objects around him. There was an open square for the market-place; and in the centre of it, a large inn with a sign-post in front, displaying an object very common in art, but rarely met with in nature—to wit, a blue lion, with three bow legs in the air, balancing himself on the extreme point of the centre claw of his fourth foot. There were, within sight, an auctioneer’s and fire-agency office, a corn-factor’s, a linen-draper’s, a saddler’s, a distiller’s, a grocer’s, and a shoe-shop—the last-mentioned warehouse being also appropriated to the diffusion of hats, bonnets, wearing apparel, cotton umbrellas, and useful knowledge. There was a red brick house with a small paved courtyard in front, which anybody might have known belonged to the attorney; and there was, moreover, another red brick house with Venetian blinds, and a large brass door-plate with a very legible announcement that it belonged to the surgeon. A few boys were making their way to the cricket-field; and two or three shopkeepers who were standing at their doors looked as if they should like to be making their way to the same spot, as indeed to all appearance they might have done, without losing any great amount of custom thereby. Mr. Pickwick having paused to make these observations, to be noted down at a more convenient period, hastened to rejoin his friends, who had turned out of the main street, and were already within sight of the field of battle.

The wickets were pitched, and so were a couple of marquees for the rest and refreshment of the contending parties. The game had not yet commenced. Two or three Dingley Dellers, and All-Muggletonians, were amusing themselves with a majestic air by throwing the ball carelessly from hand to hand; and several other gentlemen dressed like them, in straw hats, flannel jackets, and white trousers—a costume in which they looked very much like amateur stone-masons—were sprinkled about the tents, towards one of which Mr. Wardle conducted the party.

Several dozen of ‘How-are-you’s?’ hailed the old gentleman’s arrival; and a general raising of the straw hats, and bending forward of the flannel jackets, followed his introduction of his guests as gentlemen from London, who were extremely anxious to witness the proceedings of the day, with which, he had no doubt, they would be greatly delighted.

‘You had better step into the marquee, I think, Sir,’ said one very stout gentleman, whose body and legs looked like half a gigantic roll of flannel, elevated on a couple of inflated pillow-cases.

‘You’ll find it much pleasanter, Sir,’ urged another stout gentleman, who strongly resembled the other half of the roll of flannel aforesaid.

‘You’re very good,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘This way,’ said the first speaker; ‘they notch in here—it’s the best place in the whole field;’ and the cricketer, panting on before, preceded them to the tent.

‘Capital game—smart sport—fine exercise—very,’ were the words which fell upon Mr. Pickwick’s ear as he entered the tent; and the first object that met his eyes was his green-coated friend of the Rochester coach, holding forth, to the no small delight and edification of a select circle of the chosen of All-Muggleton. His dress was slightly improved, and he wore boots; but there was no mistaking him.

The stranger recognised his friends immediately; and, darting forward and seizing Mr. Pickwick by the hand, dragged him to a seat with his usual impetuosity, talking all the while as if the whole of the arrangements were under his especial patronage and direction.

‘This way—this way—capital fun—lots of beer—hogsheads; rounds of beef—bullocks; mustard—cart-loads; glorious day—down with you—make yourself at home—glad to see you—very.’

Mr. Pickwick sat down as he was bid, and Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass also complied with the directions of their mysterious friend. Mr. Wardle looked on in silent wonder.

‘Mr. Wardle—a friend of mine,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Friend of yours!—My dear sir, how are you?—Friend of my friend’s—give me your hand, sir’—and the stranger grasped Mr. Wardle’s hand with all the fervour of a close intimacy of many years, and then stepped back a pace or two as if to take a full survey of his face and figure, and then shook hands with him again, if possible, more warmly than before.

‘Well; and how came you here?’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile in which benevolence struggled with surprise.

‘Come,’ replied the stranger—‘stopping at Crown—Crown at Muggleton—met a party—flannel jackets—white trousers—anchovy sandwiches—devilled kidney—splendid fellows—glorious.’

Mr. Pickwick was sufficiently versed in the stranger’s system of stenography to infer from this rapid and disjointed communication that he had, somehow or other, contracted an acquaintance with the All-Muggletons, which he had converted, by a process peculiar to himself, into that extent of good-fellowship on which a general invitation may be easily founded. His curiosity was therefore satisfied, and putting on his spectacles he prepared himself to watch the play which was just commencing.

All-Muggleton had the first innings; and the interest became intense when Mr. Dumkins and Mr. Podder, two of the most renowned members of that most distinguished club, walked, bat in hand, to their respective wickets. Mr. Luffey, the highest ornament of Dingley Dell, was pitched to bowl against the redoubtable Dumkins, and Mr. Struggles was selected to do the same kind office for the hitherto unconquered Podder. Several players were stationed, to ‘look out,’ in different parts of the field, and each fixed himself into the proper attitude by placing one hand on each knee, and stooping very much as if he were ‘making a back’ for some beginner at leap-frog. All the regular players do this sort of thing;—indeed it is generally supposed that it is quite impossible to look out properly in any other position.

The umpires were stationed behind the wickets; the scorers were prepared to notch the runs; a breathless silence ensued. Mr. Luffey retired a few paces behind the wicket of the passive Podder, and applied the ball to his right eye for several seconds. Dumkins confidently awaited its coming with his eyes fixed on the motions of Luffey.

‘Play!’ suddenly cried the bowler. The ball flew from his hand straight and swift towards the centre stump of the wicket. The wary Dumkins was on the alert: it fell upon the tip of the bat, and bounded far away over the heads of the scouts, who had just stooped low enough to let it fly over them.

‘Run—run—another.—Now, then throw her up—up with her—stop there—another—no—yes—no—throw her up, throw her up!’—Such were the shouts which followed the stroke; and at the conclusion of which All-Muggleton had scored two. Nor was Podder behindhand in earning laurels wherewith to garnish himself and Muggleton. He blocked the doubtful balls, missed the bad ones, took the good ones, and sent them flying to all parts of the field. The scouts were hot and tired; the bowlers were changed and bowled till their arms ached; but Dumkins and Podder remained unconquered. Did an elderly gentleman essay to stop the progress of the ball, it rolled between his legs or slipped between his fingers. Did a slim gentleman try to catch it, it struck him on the nose, and bounded pleasantly off with redoubled violence, while the slim gentleman’s eyes filled with water, and his form writhed with anguish. Was it thrown straight up to the wicket, Dumkins had reached it before the ball. In short, when Dumkins was caught out, and Podder stumped out, All-Muggleton had notched some fifty-four, while the score of the Dingley Dellers was as blank as their faces. The advantage was too great to be recovered. In vain did the eager Luffey, and the enthusiastic Struggles, do all that skill and experience could suggest, to regain the ground Dingley Dell had lost in the contest—it was of no avail; and in an early period of the winning game Dingley Dell gave in, and allowed the superior prowess of All-Muggleton.

The stranger, meanwhile, had been eating, drinking, and talking, without cessation. At every good stroke he expressed his satisfaction and approval of the player in a most condescending and patronising manner, which could not fail to have been highly gratifying to the party concerned; while at every bad attempt at a catch, and every failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as—‘Ah, ah!—stupid’—‘Now, butter-fingers’—‘Muff’—‘Humbug’—and so forth—ejaculations which seemed to establish him in the opinion of all around, as a most excellent and undeniable judge of the whole art and mystery of the noble game of cricket.

‘Capital game—well played—some strokes admirable,’ said the stranger, as both sides crowded into the tent, at the conclusion of the game.

‘You have played it, sir?’ inquired Mr. Wardle, who had been much amused by his loquacity.

‘Played it! Think I have—thousands of times—not here—West Indies—exciting thing—hot work—very.’ ‘It must be rather a warm pursuit in such a climate,’ observed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Warm!—red hot—scorching—glowing. Played a match once—single wicket—friend the colonel—Sir Thomas Blazo—who should get the greatest number of runs.—Won the toss—first innings—seven o’clock A.M.—six natives to look out—went in; kept in—heat intense—natives all fainted—taken away—fresh half-dozen ordered—fainted also—Blazo bowling—supported by two natives—couldn’t bowl me out—fainted too—cleared away the colonel—wouldn’t give in—faithful attendant—Quanko Samba—last man left—sun so hot, bat in blisters, ball scorched brown—five hundred and seventy runs—rather exhausted—Quanko mustered up last remaining strength—bowled me out—had a bath, and went out to dinner.’

‘And what became of what’s-his-name, Sir?’ inquired an old gentleman.

‘Blazo?’

‘No—the other gentleman.’

Quanko Samba?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Poor Quanko—never recovered it—bowled on, on my account—bowled off, on his own—died, sir.’ Here the stranger buried his countenance in a brown jug, but whether to hide his emotion or imbibe its contents, we cannot distinctly affirm. We only know that he paused suddenly, drew a long and deep breath, and looked anxiously on, as two of the principal members of the Dingley Dell club approached Mr. Pickwick, and said—

‘We are about to partake of a plain dinner at the Blue Lion, Sir; we hope you and your friends will join us.’

Of course,’ said Mr. Wardle, ‘among our friends we include Mr.—;’ and he looked towards the stranger.

‘Jingle,’ said that versatile gentleman, taking the hint at once. ‘Jingle—Alfred Jingle, Esq., of No Hall, Nowhere.’

‘I shall be very happy, I am sure,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘So shall I,’ said Mr. Alfred Jingle, drawing one arm through Mr. Pickwick’s, and another through Mr. Wardle’s, as he whispered confidentially in the ear of the former gentleman:—

‘Devilish good dinner—cold, but capital—peeped into the room this morning—fowls and pies, and all that sort of thing—pleasant fellows these—well behaved, too—very.’

There being no further preliminaries to arrange, the company straggled into the town in little knots of twos and threes; and within a quarter of an hour were all seated in the great room of the Blue Lion Inn, Muggleton—Mr. Dumkins acting as chairman, and Mr. Luffey officiating as vice.

There was a vast deal of talking and rattling of knives and forks, and plates; a great running about of three ponderous-headed waiters, and a rapid disappearance of the substantial viands on the table; to each and every of which item of confusion, the facetious Mr. Jingle lent the aid of half-a-dozen ordinary men at least. When everybody had eaten as much as possible, the cloth was removed, bottles, glasses, and dessert were placed on the table; and the waiters withdrew to ‘clear away,’ or in other words, to appropriate to their own private use and emolument whatever remnants of the eatables and drinkables they could contrive to lay their hands on.

Amidst the general hum of mirth and conversation that ensued, there was a little man with a puffy Say-nothing-to-me,-or-I’ll-contradict-you sort of countenance, who remained very quiet; occasionally looking round him when the conversation slackened, as if he contemplated putting in something very weighty; and now and then bursting into a short cough of inexpressible grandeur. At length, during a moment of comparative silence, the little man called out in a very loud, solemn voice,—

‘Mr. Luffey!’

Everybody was hushed into a profound stillness as the individual addressed, replied—

‘Sir!’

‘I wish to address a few words to you, Sir, if you will entreat the gentlemen to fill their glasses.’

Mr. Jingle uttered a patronising ‘Hear, hear,’ which was responded to by the remainder of the company; and the glasses having been filled, the vice-president assumed an air of wisdom in a state of profound attention; and said—

‘Mr. Staple.’

‘Sir,’ said the little man, rising, ‘I wish to address what I have to say to you and not to our worthy chairman, because our worthy chairman is in some measure—I may say in a great degree—the subject of what I have to say, or I may say to—to—’

‘State,’ suggested Mr. Jingle.

‘Yes, to state,’ said the little man, ‘I thank my honourable friend, if he will allow me to call him so (four hears and one certainly from Mr. Jingle), for the suggestion. Sir, I am a Deller—a Dingley Deller (cheers). I cannot lay claim to the honour of forming an item in the population of Muggleton; nor, Sir, I will frankly admit, do I covet that honour: and I will tell you why, Sir (hear); to Muggleton I will readily concede all these honours and distinctions to which it can fairly lay claim—they are too numerous and too well known to require aid or recapitulation from me. But, sir, while we remember that Muggleton has given birth to a Dumkins and a Podder, let us never forget that Dingley Dell can boast a Luffey and a Struggles. (Vociferous cheering.) Let me not be considered as wishing to detract from the merits of the former gentlemen. Sir, I envy them the luxury of their own feelings on this occasion. (Cheers.) Every gentleman who hears me, is probably acquainted with the reply made by an individual, who—to use an ordinary figure of speech—“hung out” in a tub, to the emperor Alexander:—“if I were not Diogenes,” said he, “I would be Alexander.” I can well imagine these gentlemen to say, “If I were not Dumkins I would be Luffey; if I were not Podder I would be Struggles.” (Enthusiasm.) But, gentlemen of Muggleton, is it in cricket alone that your fellow-townsmen stand pre-eminent? Have you never heard of Dumkins and determination? Have you never been taught to associate Podder with property? (Great applause.) Have you never, when struggling for your rights, your liberties, and your privileges, been reduced, if only for an instant, to misgiving and despair? And when you have been thus depressed, has not the name of Dumkins laid afresh within your breast the fire which had just gone out; and has not a word from that man lighted it again as brightly as if it had never expired? (Great cheering.) Gentlemen, I beg to surround with a rich halo of enthusiastic cheering the united names of “Dumkins and Podder.”’

Here the little man ceased, and here the company commenced a raising of voices, and thumping of tables, which lasted with little intermission during the remainder of the evening. Other toasts were drunk. Mr. Luffey and Mr. Struggles, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Jingle, were, each in his turn, the subject of unqualified eulogium; and each in due course returned thanks for the honour.

Enthusiastic as we are in the noble cause to which we have devoted ourselves, we should have felt a sensation of pride which we cannot express, and a consciousness of having done something to merit immortality of which we are now deprived, could we have laid the faintest outline on these addresses before our ardent readers. Mr. Snodgrass, as usual, took a great mass of notes, which would no doubt have afforded most useful and valuable information, had not the burning eloquence of the words or the feverish influence of the wine made that gentleman’s hand so extremely unsteady, as to render his writing nearly unintelligible, and his style wholly so. By dint of patient investigation, we have been enabled to trace some characters bearing a faint resemblance to the names of the speakers; and we can only discern an entry of a song (supposed to have been sung by Mr. Jingle), in which the words ‘bowl’ ‘sparkling’ ‘ruby’ ‘bright’ and ‘wine’ are frequently repeated at short intervals. We fancy, too, that we can discern at the very end of the notes, some indistinct reference to ‘broiled bones’; and then the words ‘cold’ ‘without’ occur: but as any hypothesis we could found upon them must necessarily rest upon mere conjecture, we are not disposed to indulge in any of the speculations to which they may give rise.

We will therefore return to Mr. Tupman; merely adding that within some few minutes before twelve o’clock that night, the convocation of worthies of Dingley Dell and Muggleton were heard to sing, with great feeling and emphasis, the beautiful and pathetic national air of

     ‘We won’t go home till morning,
     We won’t go home till morning,
     We won’t go home till morning,
     Till daylight doth appear.’ 





CHAPTER VIII. STRONGLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE POSITION, THAT THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE IS NOT A RAILWAY

The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so many of the gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evinced in his behalf, were all favourable to the growth and development of those softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in the bosom of Mr. Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined to centre in one lovely object. The young ladies were pretty, their manners winning, their dispositions unexceptionable; but there was a dignity in the air, a touch-me-not-ishness in the walk, a majesty in the eye, of the spinster aunt, to which, at their time of life, they could lay no claim, which distinguished her from any female on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed. That there was something kindred in their nature, something congenial in their souls, something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms, was evident. Her name was the first that rose to Mr. Tupman’s lips as he lay wounded on the grass; and her hysteric laughter was the first sound that fell upon his ear when he was supported to the house. But had her agitation arisen from an amiable and feminine sensibility which would have been equally irrepressible in any case; or had it been called forth by a more ardent and passionate feeling, which he, of all men living, could alone awaken? These were the doubts which racked his brain as he lay extended on the sofa; these were the doubts which he determined should be at once and for ever resolved.

It was evening. Isabella and Emily had strolled out with Mr. Trundle; the deaf old lady had fallen asleep in her chair; the snoring of the fat boy, penetrated in a low and monotonous sound from the distant kitchen; the buxom servants were lounging at the side door, enjoying the pleasantness of the hour, and the delights of a flirtation, on first principles, with certain unwieldy animals attached to the farm; and there sat the interesting pair, uncared for by all, caring for none, and dreaming only of themselves; there they sat, in short, like a pair of carefully-folded kid gloves—bound up in each other.

‘I have forgotten my flowers,’ said the spinster aunt.

‘Water them now,’ said Mr. Tupman, in accents of persuasion.

‘You will take cold in the evening air,’ urged the spinster aunt affectionately.

‘No, no,’ said Mr. Tupman, rising; ‘it will do me good. Let me accompany you.’

The lady paused to adjust the sling in which the left arm of the youth was placed, and taking his right arm led him to the garden.

There was a bower at the farther end, with honeysuckle, jessamine, and creeping plants—one of those sweet retreats which humane men erect for the accommodation of spiders.

The spinster aunt took up a large watering-pot which lay in one corner, and was about to leave the arbour. Mr. Tupman detained her, and drew her to a seat beside him.

‘Miss Wardle!’ said he.

The spinster aunt trembled, till some pebbles which had accidentally found their way into the large watering-pot shook like an infant’s rattle.

‘Miss Wardle,’ said Mr. Tupman, ‘you are an angel.’

‘Mr. Tupman!’ exclaimed Rachael, blushing as red as the watering-pot itself.

‘Nay,’ said the eloquent Pickwickian—‘I know it but too well.’

‘All women are angels, they say,’ murmured the lady playfully.

‘Then what can you be; or to what, without presumption, can I compare you?’ replied Mr. Tupman. ‘Where was the woman ever seen who resembled you? Where else could I hope to find so rare a combination of excellence and beauty? Where else could I seek to—Oh!’ Here Mr. Tupman paused, and pressed the hand which clasped the handle of the happy watering-pot.

The lady turned aside her head. ‘Men are such deceivers,’ she softly whispered.

‘They are, they are,’ ejaculated Mr. Tupman; ‘but not all men. There lives at least one being who can never change—one being who would be content to devote his whole existence to your happiness—who lives but in your eyes—who breathes but in your smiles—who bears the heavy burden of life itself only for you.’

‘Could such an individual be found—’ said the lady.

‘But he can be found,’ said the ardent Mr. Tupman, interposing. ‘He is found. He is here, Miss Wardle.’ And ere the lady was aware of his intention, Mr. Tupman had sunk upon his knees at her feet.

‘Mr. Tupman, rise,’ said Rachael.

‘Never!’ was the valorous reply. ‘Oh, Rachael!’ He seized her passive hand, and the watering-pot fell to the ground as he pressed it to his lips.—‘Oh, Rachael! say you love me.’

‘Mr. Tupman,’ said the spinster aunt, with averted head, ‘I can hardly speak the words; but—but—you are not wholly indifferent to me.’

Mr. Tupman no sooner heard this avowal, than he proceeded to do what his enthusiastic emotions prompted, and what, for aught we know (for we are but little acquainted with such matters), people so circumstanced always do. He jumped up, and, throwing his arm round the neck of the spinster aunt, imprinted upon her lips numerous kisses, which after a due show of struggling and resistance, she received so passively, that there is no telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed, if the lady had not given a very unaffected start, and exclaimed in an affrighted tone—

‘Mr. Tupman, we are observed!—we are discovered!’

Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectly motionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but without the slightest expression on his face that the most expert physiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or any other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr. Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and the longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fat boy’s countenance, the more convinced he became that he either did not know, or did not understand, anything that had been going forward. Under this impression, he said with great firmness—

‘What do you want here, Sir?’

‘Supper’s ready, sir,’ was the prompt reply.

‘Have you just come here, sir?’ inquired Mr. Tupman, with a piercing look.

‘Just,’ replied the fat boy.

Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not a wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.

Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked towards the house; the fat boy followed behind.

‘He knows nothing of what has happened,’ he whispered.

‘Nothing,’ said the spinster aunt.

There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed chuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not have been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything but feeding in his whole visage.

‘He must have been fast asleep,’ whispered Mr. Tupman.

‘I have not the least doubt of it,’ replied the spinster aunt.

They both laughed heartily.

Mr. Tupman was wrong. The fat boy, for once, had not been fast asleep. He was awake—wide awake—to what had been going forward.

The supper passed off without any attempt at a general conversation. The old lady had gone to bed; Isabella Wardle devoted herself exclusively to Mr. Trundle; the spinster’s attentions were reserved for Mr. Tupman; and Emily’s thoughts appeared to be engrossed by some distant object—possibly they were with the absent Snodgrass.

Eleven—twelve—one o’clock had struck, and the gentlemen had not arrived. Consternation sat on every face. Could they have been waylaid and robbed? Should they send men and lanterns in every direction by which they could be supposed likely to have travelled home? or should they—Hark! there they were. What could have made them so late? A strange voice, too! To whom could it belong? They rushed into the kitchen, whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rather more than a glimmering of the real state of the case.

Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hat cocked completely over his left eye, was leaning against the dresser, shaking his head from side to side, and producing a constant succession of the blandest and most benevolent smiles without being moved thereunto by any discernible cause or pretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamed countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentleman muttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle, supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invoking destruction upon the head of any member of the family who should suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; and Mr. Snodgrass had sunk into a chair, with an expression of the most abject and hopeless misery that the human mind can imagine, portrayed in every lineament of his expressive face.

‘Is anything the matter?’ inquired the three ladies.

‘Nothing the matter,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘We—we’re—all right.—I say, Wardle, we’re all right, ain’t we?’

‘I should think so,’ replied the jolly host.—‘My dears, here’s my friend Mr. Jingle—Mr. Pickwick’s friend, Mr. Jingle, come ‘pon—little visit.’

‘Is anything the matter with Mr. Snodgrass, Sir?’ inquired Emily, with great anxiety.

‘Nothing the matter, ma’am,’ replied the stranger. ‘Cricket dinner—glorious party—capital songs—old port—claret—good—very good—wine, ma’am—wine.’

‘It wasn’t the wine,’ murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. ‘It was the salmon.’ (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)

‘Hadn’t they better go to bed, ma’am?’ inquired Emma. ‘Two of the boys will carry the gentlemen upstairs.’

‘I won’t go to bed,’ said Mr. Winkle firmly.

‘No living boy shall carry me,’ said Mr. Pickwick stoutly; and he went on smiling as before.

‘Hurrah!’ gasped Mr. Winkle faintly.

‘Hurrah!’ echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat and dashing it on the floor, and insanely casting his spectacles into the middle of the kitchen. At this humorous feat he laughed outright.

‘Let’s—have—‘nother—bottle,’ cried Mr. Winkle, commencing in a very loud key, and ending in a very faint one. His head dropped upon his breast; and, muttering his invincible determination not to go to his bed, and a sanguinary regret that he had not ‘done for old Tupman’ in the morning, he fell fast asleep; in which condition he was borne to his apartment by two young giants under the personal superintendence of the fat boy, to whose protecting care Mr. Snodgrass shortly afterwards confided his own person, Mr. Pickwick accepted the proffered arm of Mr. Tupman and quietly disappeared, smiling more than ever; and Mr. Wardle, after taking as affectionate a leave of the whole family as if he were ordered for immediate execution, consigned to Mr. Trundle the honour of conveying him upstairs, and retired, with a very futile attempt to look impressively solemn and dignified.

‘What a shocking scene!’ said the spinster aunt.

‘Dis-gusting!’ ejaculated both the young ladies.

‘Dreadful—dreadful!’ said Jingle, looking very grave: he was about a bottle and a half ahead of any of his companions. ‘Horrid spectacle—very!’

‘What a nice man!’ whispered the spinster aunt to Mr. Tupman.

‘Good-looking, too!’ whispered Emily Wardle.

‘Oh, decidedly,’ observed the spinster aunt.

Mr. Tupman thought of the widow at Rochester, and his mind was troubled. The succeeding half-hour’s conversation was not of a nature to calm his perturbed spirit. The new visitor was very talkative, and the number of his anecdotes was only to be exceeded by the extent of his politeness. Mr. Tupman felt that as Jingle’s popularity increased, he (Tupman) retired further into the shade. His laughter was forced—his merriment feigned; and when at last he laid his aching temples between the sheets, he thought, with horrid delight, on the satisfaction it would afford him to have Jingle’s head at that moment between the feather bed and the mattress.

The indefatigable stranger rose betimes next morning, and, although his companions remained in bed overpowered with the dissipation of the previous night, exerted himself most successfully to promote the hilarity of the breakfast-table. So successful were his efforts, that even the deaf old lady insisted on having one or two of his best jokes retailed through the trumpet; and even she condescended to observe to the spinster aunt, that ‘He’ (meaning Jingle) ‘was an impudent young fellow:’ a sentiment in which all her relations then and there present thoroughly coincided.

It was the old lady’s habit on the fine summer mornings to repair to the arbour in which Mr. Tupman had already signalised himself, in form and manner following: first, the fat boy fetched from a peg behind the old lady’s bedroom door, a close black satin bonnet, a warm cotton shawl, and a thick stick with a capacious handle; and the old lady, having put on the bonnet and shawl at her leisure, would lean one hand on the stick and the other on the fat boy’s shoulder, and walk leisurely to the arbour, where the fat boy would leave her to enjoy the fresh air for the space of half an hour; at the expiration of which time he would return and reconduct her to the house.

The old lady was very precise and very particular; and as this ceremony had been observed for three successive summers without the slightest deviation from the accustomed form, she was not a little surprised on this particular morning to see the fat boy, instead of leaving the arbour, walk a few paces out of it, look carefully round him in every direction, and return towards her with great stealth and an air of the most profound mystery.

The old lady was timorous—most old ladies are—and her first impression was that the bloated lad was about to do her some grievous bodily harm with the view of possessing himself of her loose coin. She would have cried for assistance, but age and infirmity had long ago deprived her of the power of screaming; she, therefore, watched his motions with feelings of intense horror which were in no degree diminished by his coming close up to her, and shouting in her ear in an agitated, and as it seemed to her, a threatening tone—

‘Missus!’

Now it so happened that Mr. Jingle was walking in the garden close to the arbour at that moment. He too heard the shouts of ‘Missus,’ and stopped to hear more. There were three reasons for his doing so. In the first place, he was idle and curious; secondly, he was by no means scrupulous; thirdly, and lastly, he was concealed from view by some flowering shrubs. So there he stood, and there he listened.

‘Missus!’ shouted the fat boy.

‘Well, Joe,’ said the trembling old lady. ‘I’m sure I have been a good mistress to you, Joe. You have invariably been treated very kindly. You have never had too much to do; and you have always had enough to eat.’

This last was an appeal to the fat boy’s most sensitive feelings. He seemed touched, as he replied emphatically—

‘I knows I has.’

‘Then what can you want to do now?’ said the old lady, gaining courage.

‘I wants to make your flesh creep,’ replied the boy.

This sounded like a very bloodthirsty mode of showing one’s gratitude; and as the old lady did not precisely understand the process by which such a result was to be attained, all her former horrors returned.

‘What do you think I see in this very arbour last night?’ inquired the boy.

‘Bless us! What?’ exclaimed the old lady, alarmed at the solemn manner of the corpulent youth.

‘The strange gentleman—him as had his arm hurt—a-kissin’ and huggin’—’

‘Who, Joe? None of the servants, I hope.’

Worser than that,’ roared the fat boy, in the old lady’s ear.

‘Not one of my grandda’aters?’

‘Worser than that.’

‘Worse than that, Joe!’ said the old lady, who had thought this the extreme limit of human atrocity. ‘Who was it, Joe? I insist upon knowing.’

The fat boy looked cautiously round, and having concluded his survey, shouted in the old lady’s ear—

‘Miss Rachael.’

‘What!’ said the old lady, in a shrill tone. ‘Speak louder.’

‘Miss Rachael,’ roared the fat boy.

‘My da’ater!’

The train of nods which the fat boy gave by way of assent, communicated a blanc-mange like motion to his fat cheeks.

‘And she suffered him!’ exclaimed the old lady. A grin stole over the fat boy’s features as he said—

‘I see her a-kissin’ of him agin.’

If Mr. Jingle, from his place of concealment, could have beheld the expression which the old lady’s face assumed at this communication, the probability is that a sudden burst of laughter would have betrayed his close vicinity to the summer-house. He listened attentively. Fragments of angry sentences such as, ‘Without my permission!’—‘At her time of life’—‘Miserable old ‘ooman like me’—‘Might have waited till I was dead,’ and so forth, reached his ears; and then he heard the heels of the fat boy’s boots crunching the gravel, as he retired and left the old lady alone.

It was a remarkable coincidence perhaps, but it was nevertheless a fact, that Mr. Jingle within five minutes of his arrival at Manor Farm on the preceding night, had inwardly resolved to lay siege to the heart of the spinster aunt, without delay. He had observation enough to see, that his off-hand manner was by no means disagreeable to the fair object of his attack; and he had more than a strong suspicion that she possessed that most desirable of all requisites, a small independence. The imperative necessity of ousting his rival by some means or other, flashed quickly upon him, and he immediately resolved to adopt certain proceedings tending to that end and object, without a moment’s delay. Fielding tells us that man is fire, and woman tow, and the Prince of Darkness sets a light to ‘em. Mr. Jingle knew that young men, to spinster aunts, are as lighted gas to gunpowder, and he determined to essay the effect of an explosion without loss of time.

Full of reflections upon this important decision, he crept from his place of concealment, and, under cover of the shrubs before mentioned, approached the house. Fortune seemed determined to favour his design. Mr. Tupman and the rest of the gentlemen left the garden by the side gate just as he obtained a view of it; and the young ladies, he knew, had walked out alone, soon after breakfast. The coast was clear.

The breakfast-parlour door was partially open. He peeped in. The spinster aunt was knitting. He coughed; she looked up and smiled. Hesitation formed no part of Mr. Alfred Jingle’s character. He laid his finger on his lips mysteriously, walked in, and closed the door.

‘Miss Wardle,’ said Mr. Jingle, with affected earnestness, ‘forgive intrusion—short acquaintance—no time for ceremony—all discovered.’

‘Sir!’ said the spinster aunt, rather astonished by the unexpected apparition and somewhat doubtful of Mr. Jingle’s sanity.

‘Hush!’ said Mr. Jingle, in a stage-whisper—‘Large boy—dumpling face—round eyes—rascal!’ Here he shook his head expressively, and the spinster aunt trembled with agitation.

‘I presume you allude to Joseph, Sir?’ said the lady, making an effort to appear composed.

‘Yes, ma’am—damn that Joe!—treacherous dog, Joe—told the old lady—old lady furious—wild—raving—arbour—Tupman—kissing and hugging—all that sort of thing—eh, ma’am—eh?’

‘Mr. Jingle,’ said the spinster aunt, ‘if you come here, Sir, to insult me—’

‘Not at all—by no means,’ replied the unabashed Mr. Jingle—‘overheard the tale—came to warn you of your danger—tender my services—prevent the hubbub. Never mind—think it an insult—leave the room’—and he turned, as if to carry the threat into execution.

‘What shall I do!’ said the poor spinster, bursting into tears. ‘My brother will be furious.’

‘Of course he will,’ said Mr. Jingle pausing—‘outrageous.’

Oh, Mr. Jingle, what can I say!’ exclaimed the spinster aunt, in another flood of despair.

‘Say he dreamt it,’ replied Mr. Jingle coolly.

A ray of comfort darted across the mind of the spinster aunt at this suggestion. Mr. Jingle perceived it, and followed up his advantage.

‘Pooh, pooh!—nothing more easy—blackguard boy—lovely woman—fat boy horsewhipped—you believed—end of the matter—all comfortable.’

Whether the probability of escaping from the consequences of this ill-timed discovery was delightful to the spinster’s feelings, or whether the hearing herself described as a ‘lovely woman’ softened the asperity of her grief, we know not. She blushed slightly, and cast a grateful look on Mr. Jingle.

That insinuating gentleman sighed deeply, fixed his eyes on the spinster aunt’s face for a couple of minutes, started melodramatically, and suddenly withdrew them.

‘You seem unhappy, Mr. Jingle,’ said the lady, in a plaintive voice. ‘May I show my gratitude for your kind interference, by inquiring into the cause, with a view, if possible, to its removal?’

‘Ha!’ exclaimed Mr. Jingle, with another start—‘removal! remove my unhappiness, and your love bestowed upon a man who is insensible to the blessing—who even now contemplates a design upon the affections of the niece of the creature who—but no; he is my friend; I will not expose his vices. Miss Wardle—farewell!’ At the conclusion of this address, the most consecutive he was ever known to utter, Mr. Jingle applied to his eyes the remnant of a handkerchief before noticed, and turned towards the door.

‘Stay, Mr. Jingle!’ said the spinster aunt emphatically. ‘You have made an allusion to Mr. Tupman—explain it.’

‘Never!’ exclaimed Jingle, with a professional (i.e., theatrical) air. ‘Never!’ and, by way of showing that he had no desire to be questioned further, he drew a chair close to that of the spinster aunt and sat down.

‘Mr. Jingle,’ said the aunt, ‘I entreat—I implore you, if there is any dreadful mystery connected with Mr. Tupman, reveal it.’

‘Can I,’ said Mr. Jingle, fixing his eyes on the aunt’s face—‘can I see—lovely creature—sacrificed at the shrine—heartless avarice!’ He appeared to be struggling with various conflicting emotions for a few seconds, and then said in a low voice— ‘Tupman only wants your money.’

‘The wretch!’ exclaimed the spinster, with energetic indignation. (Mr. Jingle’s doubts were resolved. She had money.)

‘More than that,’ said Jingle—‘loves another.’

‘Another!’ ejaculated the spinster. ‘Who?’

Short girl—black eyes—niece Emily.’

There was a pause.

Now, if there was one individual in the whole world, of whom the spinster aunt entertained a mortal and deep-rooted jealousy, it was this identical niece. The colour rushed over her face and neck, and she tossed her head in silence with an air of ineffable contempt. At last, biting her thin lips, and bridling up, she said—

‘It can’t be. I won’t believe it.’

‘Watch ‘em,’ said Jingle.

‘I will,’ said the aunt.

‘Watch his looks.’

‘I will.’

‘His whispers.’

‘I will.’

‘He’ll sit next her at table.’

‘Let him.’

‘He’ll flatter her.’

‘Let him.’

‘He’ll pay her every possible attention.’

‘Let him.’

‘And he’ll cut you.’

‘Cut me!’ screamed the spinster aunt. ‘he cut me; will he!’ and she trembled with rage and disappointment.

‘You will convince yourself?’ said Jingle.

‘I will.’

‘You’ll show your spirit?’

‘I will.’

You’ll not have him afterwards?’

‘Never.’

‘You’ll take somebody else?’

Yes.’

‘You shall.’

Mr. Jingle fell on his knees, remained thereupon for five minutes thereafter; and rose the accepted lover of the spinster aunt—conditionally upon Mr. Tupman’s perjury being made clear and manifest.

The burden of proof lay with Mr. Alfred Jingle; and he produced his evidence that very day at dinner. The spinster aunt could hardly believe her eyes. Mr. Tracy Tupman was established at Emily’s side, ogling, whispering, and smiling, in opposition to Mr. Snodgrass. Not a word, not a look, not a glance, did he bestow upon his heart’s pride of the evening before.

‘Damn that boy!’ thought old Mr. Wardle to himself.—He had heard the story from his mother. ‘Damn that boy! He must have been asleep. It’s all imagination.’

‘Traitor!’ thought the spinster aunt. ‘Dear Mr. Jingle was not deceiving me. Ugh! how I hate the wretch!’

The following conversation may serve to explain to our readers this apparently unaccountable alteration of deportment on the part of Mr. Tracy Tupman.

The time was evening; the scene the garden. There were two figures walking in a side path; one was rather short and stout; the other tall and slim. They were Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle. The stout figure commenced the dialogue.

‘How did I do it?’ he inquired.

‘Splendid—capital—couldn’t act better myself—you must repeat the part to-morrow—every evening till further notice.’

‘Does Rachael still wish it?’

‘Of course—she don’t like it—but must be done—avert suspicion—afraid of her brother—says there’s no help for it—only a few days more—when old folks blinded—crown your happiness.’

‘Any message?’

‘Love—best love—kindest regards—unalterable affection. Can I say anything for you?’

‘My dear fellow,’ replied the unsuspicious Mr. Tupman, fervently grasping his ‘friend’s’ hand—‘carry my best love—say how hard I find it to dissemble—say anything that’s kind: but add how sensible I am of the necessity of the suggestion she made to me, through you, this morning. Say I applaud her wisdom and admire her discretion.’

I will. Anything more?’

‘Nothing, only add how ardently I long for the time when I may call her mine, and all dissimulation may be unnecessary.’

‘Certainly, certainly. Anything more?’

‘Oh, my friend!’ said poor Mr. Tupman, again grasping the hand of his companion, ‘receive my warmest thanks for your disinterested kindness; and forgive me if I have ever, even in thought, done you the injustice of supposing that you could stand in my way. My dear friend, can I ever repay you?’

‘Don’t talk of it,’ replied Mr. Jingle. He stopped short, as if suddenly recollecting something, and said—‘By the bye—can’t spare ten pounds, can you?—very particular purpose—pay you in three days.’

‘I dare say I can,’ replied Mr. Tupman, in the fulness of his heart. ‘Three days, you say?’

‘Only three days—all over then—no more difficulties.’ Mr. Tupman counted the money into his companion’s hand, and he dropped it piece by piece into his pocket, as they walked towards the house.

‘Be careful,’ said Mr. Jingle—‘not a look.’

‘Not a wink,’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘Not a syllable.’

‘Not a whisper.’

‘All your attentions to the niece—rather rude, than otherwise, to the aunt—only way of deceiving the old ones.’

‘I’ll take care,’ said Mr. Tupman aloud.

‘And I’ll take care,’ said Mr. Jingle internally; and they entered the house.

The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and on the three afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth, the host was in high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that there was no ground for the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr. Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had told him that his affair would soon be brought to a crisis. So was Mr. Pickwick, for he was seldom otherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for he had grown jealous of Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had been winning at whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons of sufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated in another chapter.






CHAPTER IX. A DISCOVERY AND A CHASE

The supper was ready laid, the chairs were drawn round the table, bottles, jugs, and glasses were arranged upon the sideboard, and everything betokened the approach of the most convivial period in the whole four-and-twenty hours.

‘Where’s Rachael?’ said Mr. Wardle.

‘Ay, and Jingle?’ added Mr. Pickwick.

‘Dear me,’ said the host, ‘I wonder I haven’t missed him before. Why, I don’t think I’ve heard his voice for two hours at least. Emily, my dear, ring the bell.’

The bell was rung, and the fat boy appeared.

‘Where’s Miss Rachael?’ He couldn’t say.

‘Where’s Mr. Jingle, then?’ He didn’t know. Everybody looked surprised. It was late—past eleven o’clock. Mr. Tupman laughed in his sleeve. They were loitering somewhere, talking about him. Ha, ha! capital notion that—funny.

‘Never mind,’ said Wardle, after a short pause. ‘They’ll turn up presently, I dare say. I never wait supper for anybody.’

‘Excellent rule, that,’ said Mr. Pickwick—‘admirable.’

‘Pray, sit down,’ said the host.

‘Certainly’ said Mr. Pickwick; and down they sat.

There was a gigantic round of cold beef on the table, and Mr. Pickwick was supplied with a plentiful portion of it. He had raised his fork to his lips, and was on the very point of opening his mouth for the reception of a piece of beef, when the hum of many voices suddenly arose in the kitchen. He paused, and laid down his fork. Mr. Wardle paused too, and insensibly released his hold of the carving-knife, which remained inserted in the beef. He looked at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick looked at him.

Heavy footsteps were heard in the passage; the parlour door was suddenly burst open; and the man who had cleaned Mr. Pickwick’s boots on his first arrival, rushed into the room, followed by the fat boy and all the domestics.

‘What the devil’s the meaning of this?’ exclaimed the host.

‘The kitchen chimney ain’t a-fire, is it, Emma?’ inquired the old lady.

‘Lor, grandma! No,’ screamed both the young ladies.

‘What’s the matter?’ roared the master of the house.

The man gasped for breath, and faintly ejaculated—

‘They ha’ gone, mas’r!—gone right clean off, Sir!’ (At this juncture Mr. Tupman was observed to lay down his knife and fork, and to turn very pale.)

‘Who’s gone?’ said Mr. Wardle fiercely.

‘Mus’r Jingle and Miss Rachael, in a po’-chay, from Blue Lion, Muggleton. I was there; but I couldn’t stop ‘em; so I run off to tell ‘ee.’

‘I paid his expenses!’ said Mr. Tupman, jumping up frantically. ‘He’s got ten pounds of mine!—stop him!—he’s swindled me!—I won’t bear it!—I’ll have justice, Pickwick!—I won’t stand it!’ and with sundry incoherent exclamations of the like nature, the unhappy gentleman spun round and round the apartment, in a transport of frenzy.

‘Lord preserve us!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, eyeing the extraordinary gestures of his friend with terrified surprise. ‘He’s gone mad! What shall we do?’

Do!’ said the stout old host, who regarded only the last words of the sentence. ‘Put the horse in the gig! I’ll get a chaise at the Lion, and follow ‘em instantly. Where?’—he exclaimed, as the man ran out to execute the commission—‘where’s that villain, Joe?’

‘Here I am! but I hain’t a willin,’ replied a voice. It was the fat boy’s.

‘Let me get at him, Pickwick,’ cried Wardle, as he rushed at the ill-starred youth. ‘He was bribed by that scoundrel, Jingle, to put me on a wrong scent, by telling a cock-and-bull story of my sister and your friend Tupman!’ (Here Mr. Tupman sank into a chair.) ‘Let me get at him!’

‘Don’t let him!’ screamed all the women, above whose exclamations the blubbering of the fat boy was distinctly audible.

‘I won’t be held!’ cried the old man. ‘Mr. Winkle, take your hands off. Mr. Pickwick, let me go, sir!’

It was a beautiful sight, in that moment of turmoil and confusion, to behold the placid and philosophical expression of Mr. Pickwick’s face, albeit somewhat flushed with exertion, as he stood with his arms firmly clasped round the extensive waist of their corpulent host, thus restraining the impetuosity of his passion, while the fat boy was scratched, and pulled, and pushed from the room by all the females congregated therein. He had no sooner released his hold, than the man entered to announce that the gig was ready.

‘Don’t let him go alone!’ screamed the females. ‘He’ll kill somebody!’

‘I’ll go with him,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘You’re a good fellow, Pickwick,’ said the host, grasping his hand. ‘Emma, give Mr. Pickwick a shawl to tie round his neck—make haste. Look after your grandmother, girls; she has fainted away. Now then, are you ready?’

Mr. Pickwick’s mouth and chin having been hastily enveloped in a large shawl, his hat having been put on his head, and his greatcoat thrown over his arm, he replied in the affirmative.

They jumped into the gig. ‘Give her her head, Tom,’ cried the host; and away they went, down the narrow lanes; jolting in and out of the cart-ruts, and bumping up against the hedges on either side, as if they would go to pieces every moment.

‘How much are they ahead?’ shouted Wardle, as they drove up to the door of the Blue Lion, round which a little crowd had collected, late as it was.

‘Not above three-quarters of an hour,’ was everybody’s reply.

‘Chaise-and-four directly!—out with ‘em! Put up the gig afterwards.’

‘Now, boys!’ cried the landlord—‘chaise-and-four out—make haste—look alive there!’

Away ran the hostlers and the boys. The lanterns glimmered, as the men ran to and fro; the horses’ hoofs clattered on the uneven paving of the yard; the chaise rumbled as it was drawn out of the coach-house; and all was noise and bustle.

‘Now then!—is that chaise coming out to-night?’ cried Wardle.

‘Coming down the yard now, Sir,’ replied the hostler.

Out came the chaise—in went the horses—on sprang the boys—in got the travellers.

‘Mind—the seven-mile stage in less than half an hour!’ shouted Wardle.

‘Off with you!’

The boys applied whip and spur, the waiters shouted, the hostlers cheered, and away they went, fast and furiously.

‘Pretty situation,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, when he had had a moment’s time for reflection. ‘Pretty situation for the general chairman of the Pickwick Club. Damp chaise—strange horses—fifteen miles an hour—and twelve o’clock at night!’

For the first three or four miles, not a word was spoken by either of the gentlemen, each being too much immersed in his own reflections to address any observations to his companion. When they had gone over that much ground, however, and the horses getting thoroughly warmed began to do their work in really good style, Mr. Pickwick became too much exhilarated with the rapidity of the motion, to remain any longer perfectly mute.

‘We’re sure to catch them, I think,’ said he.

‘Hope so,’ replied his companion.

‘Fine night,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking up at the moon, which was shining brightly.

‘So much the worse,’ returned Wardle; ‘for they’ll have had all the advantage of the moonlight to get the start of us, and we shall lose it. It will have gone down in another hour.’

‘It will be rather unpleasant going at this rate in the dark, won’t it?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘I dare say it will,’ replied his friend dryly.

Mr. Pickwick’s temporary excitement began to sober down a little, as he reflected upon the inconveniences and dangers of the expedition in which he had so thoughtlessly embarked. He was roused by a loud shouting of the post-boy on the leader.

‘Yo-yo-yo-yo-yoe!’ went the first boy.

‘Yo-yo-yo-yoe!’ went the second.

‘Yo-yo-yo-yoe!’ chimed in old Wardle himself, most lustily, with his head and half his body out of the coach window.

‘Yo-yo-yo-yoe!’ shouted Mr. Pickwick, taking up the burden of the cry, though he had not the slightest notion of its meaning or object. And amidst the yo-yoing of the whole four, the chaise stopped.

‘What’s the matter?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘There’s a gate here,’ replied old Wardle. ‘We shall hear something of the fugitives.’

After a lapse of five minutes, consumed in incessant knocking and shouting, an old man in his shirt and trousers emerged from the turnpike-house, and opened the gate.

‘How long is it since a post-chaise went through here?’ inquired Mr. Wardle.

‘How long?’

‘Ah!’

‘Why, I don’t rightly know. It worn’t a long time ago, nor it worn’t a short time ago—just between the two, perhaps.’

‘Has any chaise been by at all?’

‘Oh, yes, there’s been a chay by.’

‘How long ago, my friend,’ interposed Mr. Pickwick; ‘an hour?’

‘Ah, I dare say it might be,’ replied the man.

‘Or two hours?’ inquired the post—boy on the wheeler.

‘Well, I shouldn’t wonder if it was,’ returned the old man doubtfully.

‘Drive on, boys,’ cried the testy old gentleman; ‘don’t waste any more time with that old idiot!’

‘Idiot!’ exclaimed the old man with a grin, as he stood in the middle of the road with the gate half-closed, watching the chaise which rapidly diminished in the increasing distance. ‘No—not much o’ that either; you’ve lost ten minutes here, and gone away as wise as you came, arter all. If every man on the line as has a guinea give him, earns it half as well, you won’t catch t’other chay this side Mich’lmas, old short-and-fat.’ And with another prolonged grin, the old man closed the gate, re-entered his house, and bolted the door after him.

Meanwhile the chaise proceeded, without any slackening of pace, towards the conclusion of the stage. The moon, as Wardle had foretold, was rapidly on the wane; large tiers of dark, heavy clouds, which had been gradually overspreading the sky for some time past, now formed one black mass overhead; and large drops of rain which pattered every now and then against the windows of the chaise, seemed to warn the travellers of the rapid approach of a stormy night. The wind, too, which was directly against them, swept in furious gusts down the narrow road, and howled dismally through the trees which skirted the pathway. Mr. Pickwick drew his coat closer about him, coiled himself more snugly up into the corner of the chaise, and fell into a sound sleep, from which he was only awakened by the stopping of the vehicle, the sound of the hostler’s bell, and a loud cry of ‘Horses on directly!’

But here another delay occurred. The boys were sleeping with such mysterious soundness, that it took five minutes a-piece to wake them. The hostler had somehow or other mislaid the key of the stable, and even when that was found, two sleepy helpers put the wrong harness on the wrong horses, and the whole process of harnessing had to be gone through afresh. Had Mr. Pickwick been alone, these multiplied obstacles would have completely put an end to the pursuit at once, but old Wardle was not to be so easily daunted; and he laid about him with such hearty good-will, cuffing this man, and pushing that; strapping a buckle here, and taking in a link there, that the chaise was ready in a much shorter time than could reasonably have been expected, under so many difficulties.

They resumed their journey; and certainly the prospect before them was by no means encouraging. The stage was fifteen miles long, the night was dark, the wind high, and the rain pouring in torrents. It was impossible to make any great way against such obstacles united; it was hard upon one o’clock already; and nearly two hours were consumed in getting to the end of the stage. Here, however, an object presented itself, which rekindled their hopes, and reanimated their drooping spirits.

‘When did this chaise come in?’ cried old Wardle, leaping out of his own vehicle, and pointing to one covered with wet mud, which was standing in the yard.

‘Not a quarter of an hour ago, sir,’ replied the hostler, to whom the question was addressed.

‘Lady and gentleman?’ inquired Wardle, almost breathless with impatience.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Tall gentleman—dress-coat—long legs—thin body?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Elderly lady—thin face—rather skinny—eh?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘By heavens, it’s the couple, Pickwick,’ exclaimed the old gentleman.

‘Would have been here before,’ said the hostler, ‘but they broke a trace.’

‘’Tis them!’ said Wardle, ‘it is, by Jove! Chaise-and-four instantly! We shall catch them yet before they reach the next stage. A guinea a-piece, boys-be alive there—bustle about—there’s good fellows.’

And with such admonitions as these, the old gentleman ran up and down the yard, and bustled to and fro, in a state of excitement which communicated itself to Mr. Pickwick also; and under the influence of which, that gentleman got himself into complicated entanglements with harness, and mixed up with horses and wheels of chaises, in the most surprising manner, firmly believing that by so doing he was materially forwarding the preparations for their resuming their journey.

‘Jump in—jump in!’ cried old Wardle, climbing into the chaise, pulling up the steps, and slamming the door after him. ‘Come along! Make haste!’ And before Mr. Pickwick knew precisely what he was about, he felt himself forced in at the other door, by one pull from the old gentleman and one push from the hostler; and off they were again.

‘Ah! we are moving now,’ said the old gentleman exultingly. They were indeed, as was sufficiently testified to Mr. Pickwick, by his constant collision either with the hard wood-work of the chaise, or the body of his companion.

‘Hold up!’ said the stout old Mr. Wardle, as Mr. Pickwick dived head foremost into his capacious waistcoat.

‘I never did feel such a jolting in my life,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Never mind,’ replied his companion, ‘it will soon be over. Steady, steady.’

Mr. Pickwick planted himself into his own corner, as firmly as he could; and on whirled the chaise faster than ever.

They had travelled in this way about three miles, when Mr. Wardle, who had been looking out of the Window for two or three minutes, suddenly drew in his face, covered with splashes, and exclaimed in breathless eagerness—

‘Here they are!’

Mr. Pickwick thrust his head out of his window. Yes: there was a chaise-and-four, a short distance before them, dashing along at full gallop.

‘Go on, go on,’ almost shrieked the old gentleman. ‘Two guineas a-piece, boys—don’t let ‘em gain on us—keep it up—keep it up.’

The horses in the first chaise started on at their utmost speed; and those in Mr. Wardle’s galloped furiously behind them.

‘I see his head,’ exclaimed the choleric old man; ‘damme, I see his head.’

‘So do I’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘that’s he.’

Mr. Pickwick was not mistaken. The countenance of Mr. Jingle, completely coated with mud thrown up by the wheels, was plainly discernible at the window of his chaise; and the motion of his arm, which was waving violently towards the postillions, denoted that he was encouraging them to increased exertion.

The interest was intense. Fields, trees, and hedges, seemed to rush past them with the velocity of a whirlwind, so rapid was the pace at which they tore along. They were close by the side of the first chaise. Jingle’s voice could be plainly heard, even above the din of the wheels, urging on the boys. Old Mr. Wardle foamed with rage and excitement. He roared out scoundrels and villains by the dozen, clenched his fist and shook it expressively at the object of his indignation; but Mr. Jingle only answered with a contemptuous smile, and replied to his menaces by a shout of triumph, as his horses, answering the increased application of whip and spur, broke into a faster gallop, and left the pursuers behind.

Mr. Pickwick had just drawn in his head, and Mr. Wardle, exhausted with shouting, had done the same, when a tremendous jolt threw them forward against the front of the vehicle. There was a sudden bump—a loud crash—away rolled a wheel, and over went the chaise.

After a very few seconds of bewilderment and confusion, in which nothing but the plunging of horses, and breaking of glass could be made out, Mr. Pickwick felt himself violently pulled out from among the ruins of the chaise; and as soon as he had gained his feet, extricated his head from the skirts of his greatcoat, which materially impeded the usefulness of his spectacles, the full disaster of the case met his view.

Old Mr. Wardle without a hat, and his clothes torn in several places, stood by his side, and the fragments of the chaise lay scattered at their feet. The post-boys, who had succeeded in cutting the traces, were standing, disfigured with mud and disordered by hard riding, by the horses’ heads. About a hundred yards in advance was the other chaise, which had pulled up on hearing the crash. The postillions, each with a broad grin convulsing his countenance, were viewing the adverse party from their saddles, and Mr. Jingle was contemplating the wreck from the coach window, with evident satisfaction. The day was just breaking, and the whole scene was rendered perfectly visible by the grey light of the morning.

‘Hollo!’ shouted the shameless Jingle, ‘anybody damaged?—elderly gentlemen—no light weights—dangerous work—very.’

‘You’re a rascal,’ roared Wardle.

‘Ha! ha!’ replied Jingle; and then he added, with a knowing wink, and a jerk of the thumb towards the interior of the chaise—‘I say—she’s very well—desires her compliments—begs you won’t trouble yourself—love to Tuppy—won’t you get up behind?—drive on, boys.’

The postillions resumed their proper attitudes, and away rattled the chaise, Mr. Jingle fluttering in derision a white handkerchief from the coach window.

Nothing in the whole adventure, not even the upset, had disturbed the calm and equable current of Mr. Pickwick’s temper. The villainy, however, which could first borrow money of his faithful follower, and then abbreviate his name to ‘Tuppy,’ was more than he could patiently bear. He drew his breath hard, and coloured up to the very tips of his spectacles, as he said, slowly and emphatically—

‘If ever I meet that man again, I’ll—’

‘Yes, yes,’ interrupted Wardle, ‘that’s all very well; but while we stand talking here, they’ll get their licence, and be married in London.’

Mr. Pickwick paused, bottled up his vengeance, and corked it down. ‘How far is it to the next stage?’ inquired Mr. Wardle, of one of the boys.

‘Six mile, ain’t it, Tom?’

‘Rayther better.’

‘Rayther better nor six mile, Sir.’

‘Can’t be helped,’ said Wardle, ‘we must walk it, Pickwick.’

‘No help for it,’ replied that truly great man.

So sending forward one of the boys on horseback, to procure a fresh chaise and horses, and leaving the other behind to take care of the broken one, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Wardle set manfully forward on the walk, first tying their shawls round their necks, and slouching down their hats to escape as much as possible from the deluge of rain, which after a slight cessation had again begun to pour heavily down.






CHAPTER X. CLEARING UP ALL DOUBTS (IF ANY EXISTED) OF THE DISINTERESTEDNESS OF MR. A. JINGLE’S CHARACTER

There are in London several old inns, once the headquarters of celebrated coaches in the days when coaches performed their journeys in a graver and more solemn manner than they do in these times; but which have now degenerated into little more than the abiding and booking-places of country wagons. The reader would look in vain for any of these ancient hostelries, among the Golden Crosses and Bull and Mouths, which rear their stately fronts in the improved streets of London. If he would light upon any of these old places, he must direct his steps to the obscurer quarters of the town, and there in some secluded nooks he will find several, still standing with a kind of gloomy sturdiness, amidst the modern innovations which surround them.

In the Borough especially, there still remain some half-dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories, supposing we should ever be reduced to the lamentable necessity of inventing any, and that the world should exist long enough to exhaust the innumerable veracious legends connected with old London Bridge, and its adjacent neighbourhood on the Surrey side.

It was in the yard of one of these inns—of no less celebrated a one than the White Hart—that a man was busily employed in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse, striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he made to the clean row, he paused from his work, and contemplated its results with evident satisfaction.

The yard presented none of that bustle and activity which are the usual characteristics of a large coach inn. Three or four lumbering wagons, each with a pile of goods beneath its ample canopy, about the height of the second-floor window of an ordinary house, were stowed away beneath a lofty roof which extended over one end of the yard; and another, which was probably to commence its journey that morning, was drawn out into the open space. A double tier of bedroom galleries, with old clumsy balustrades, ran round two sides of the straggling area, and a double row of bells to correspond, sheltered from the weather by a little sloping roof, hung over the door leading to the bar and coffee-room. Two or three gigs and chaise-carts were wheeled up under different little sheds and pent-houses; and the occasional heavy tread of a cart-horse, or rattling of a chain at the farther end of the yard, announced to anybody who cared about the matter, that the stable lay in that direction. When we add that a few boys in smock-frocks were lying asleep on heavy packages, wool-packs, and other articles that were scattered about on heaps of straw, we have described as fully as need be the general appearance of the yard of the White Hart Inn, High Street, Borough, on the particular morning in question.

A loud ringing of one of the bells was followed by the appearance of a smart chambermaid in the upper sleeping gallery, who, after tapping at one of the doors, and receiving a request from within, called over the balustrades—

‘Sam!’

‘Hollo,’ replied the man with the white hat.

‘Number twenty-two wants his boots.’

‘Ask number twenty-two, vether he’ll have ‘em now, or vait till he gets ‘em,’ was the reply.

‘Come, don’t be a fool, Sam,’ said the girl coaxingly, ‘the gentleman wants his boots directly.’

‘Well, you are a nice young ‘ooman for a musical party, you are,’ said the boot-cleaner. ‘Look at these here boots—eleven pair o’ boots; and one shoe as belongs to number six, with the wooden leg. The eleven boots is to be called at half-past eight and the shoe at nine. Who’s number twenty-two, that’s to put all the others out? No, no; reg’lar rotation, as Jack Ketch said, ven he tied the men up. Sorry to keep you a-waitin’, Sir, but I’ll attend to you directly.’

Saying which, the man in the white hat set to work upon a top-boot with increased assiduity.

There was another loud ring; and the bustling old landlady of the White Hart made her appearance in the opposite gallery.

‘Sam,’ cried the landlady, ‘where’s that lazy, idle—why, Sam—oh, there you are; why don’t you answer?’

‘Vouldn’t be gen-teel to answer, till you’d done talking,’ replied Sam gruffly.

‘Here, clean these shoes for number seventeen directly, and take ‘em to private sitting-room, number five, first floor.’

The landlady flung a pair of lady’s shoes into the yard, and bustled away.

‘Number five,’ said Sam, as he picked up the shoes, and taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, made a memorandum of their destination on the soles—‘Lady’s shoes and private sittin’-room! I suppose she didn’t come in the vagin.’

‘She came in early this morning,’ cried the girl, who was still leaning over the railing of the gallery, ‘with a gentleman in a hackney-coach, and it’s him as wants his boots, and you’d better do ‘em, that’s all about it.’

‘Vy didn’t you say so before,’ said Sam, with great indignation, singling out the boots in question from the heap before him. ‘For all I know’d he was one o’ the regular threepennies. Private room! and a lady too! If he’s anything of a gen’l’m’n, he’s vurth a shillin’ a day, let alone the arrands.’

Stimulated by this inspiring reflection, Mr. Samuel brushed away with such hearty good-will, that in a few minutes the boots and shoes, with a polish which would have struck envy to the soul of the amiable Mr. Warren (for they used Day & Martin at the White Hart), had arrived at the door of number five.

‘Come in,’ said a man’s voice, in reply to Sam’s rap at the door. Sam made his best bow, and stepped into the presence of a lady and gentleman seated at breakfast. Having officiously deposited the gentleman’s boots right and left at his feet, and the lady’s shoes right and left at hers, he backed towards the door.

‘Boots,’ said the gentleman.

‘Sir,’ said Sam, closing the door, and keeping his hand on the knob of the lock.

‘Do you know—what’s a-name—Doctors’ Commons?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Paul’s Churchyard, Sir; low archway on the carriage side, bookseller’s at one corner, hotel on the other, and two porters in the middle as touts for licences.’

‘Touts for licences!’ said the gentleman.

‘Touts for licences,’ replied Sam. ‘Two coves in vhite aprons—touches their hats ven you walk in—“Licence, Sir, licence?” Queer sort, them, and their mas’rs, too, sir—Old Bailey Proctors—and no mistake.’

‘What do they do?’ inquired the gentleman.

‘Do! You, Sir! That ain’t the worst on it, neither. They puts things into old gen’l’m’n’s heads as they never dreamed of. My father, Sir, wos a coachman. A widower he wos, and fat enough for anything—uncommon fat, to be sure. His missus dies, and leaves him four hundred pound. Down he goes to the Commons, to see the lawyer and draw the blunt—very smart—top boots on—nosegay in his button-hole—broad-brimmed tile—green shawl—quite the gen’l’m’n. Goes through the archvay, thinking how he should inwest the money—up comes the touter, touches his hat—“Licence, Sir, licence?”—“What’s that?” says my father.—“Licence, Sir,” says he.—“What licence?” says my father.—“Marriage licence,” says the touter.—“Dash my veskit,” says my father, “I never thought o’ that.”—“I think you wants one, Sir,” says the touter. My father pulls up, and thinks a bit—“No,” says he, “damme, I’m too old, b’sides, I’m a many sizes too large,” says he.—“Not a bit on it, Sir,” says the touter.—“Think not?” says my father.—“I’m sure not,” says he; “we married a gen’l’m’n twice your size, last Monday.”—“Did you, though?” said my father.—“To be sure, we did,” says the touter, “you’re a babby to him—this way, sir—this way!”—and sure enough my father walks arter him, like a tame monkey behind a horgan, into a little back office, vere a teller sat among dirty papers, and tin boxes, making believe he was busy. “Pray take a seat, vile I makes out the affidavit, Sir,” says the lawyer.—“Thank’ee, Sir,” says my father, and down he sat, and stared with all his eyes, and his mouth vide open, at the names on the boxes. “What’s your name, Sir,” says the lawyer.—“Tony Weller,” says my father.—“Parish?” says the lawyer. “Belle Savage,” says my father; for he stopped there wen he drove up, and he know’d nothing about parishes, he didn’t.—“And what’s the lady’s name?” says the lawyer. My father was struck all of a heap. “Blessed if I know,” says he.—“Not know!” says the lawyer.—“No more nor you do,” says my father; “can’t I put that in arterwards?”—“Impossible!” says the lawyer.—“Wery well,” says my father, after he’d thought a moment, “put down Mrs. Clarke.”—“What Clarke?” says the lawyer, dipping his pen in the ink.—“Susan Clarke, Markis o’ Granby, Dorking,” says my father; “she’ll have me, if I ask. I des-say—I never said nothing to her, but she’ll have me, I know.” The licence was made out, and she did have him, and what’s more she’s got him now; and I never had any of the four hundred pound, worse luck. Beg your pardon, sir,’ said Sam, when he had concluded, ‘but wen I gets on this here grievance, I runs on like a new barrow with the wheel greased.’ Having said which, and having paused for an instant to see whether he was wanted for anything more, Sam left the room.

‘Half-past nine—just the time—off at once;’ said the gentleman, whom we need hardly introduce as Mr. Jingle.

‘Time—for what?’ said the spinster aunt coquettishly.

‘Licence, dearest of angels—give notice at the church—call you mine, to-morrow’—said Mr. Jingle, and he squeezed the spinster aunt’s hand.

‘The licence!’ said Rachael, blushing.

‘The licence,’ repeated Mr. Jingle—

     ‘In hurry, post-haste for a licence,
    In hurry, ding dong I come back.’ 

‘How you run on,’ said Rachael.

‘Run on—nothing to the hours, days, weeks, months, years, when we’re united—run on—they’ll fly on—bolt—mizzle—steam-engine—thousand-horse power—nothing to it.’

‘Can’t—can’t we be married before to-morrow morning?’ inquired Rachael.

‘Impossible—can’t be—notice at the church—leave the licence to-day—ceremony come off to-morrow.’

I am so terrified, lest my brother should discover us!’ said Rachael.

‘Discover—nonsense—too much shaken by the break-down—besides—extreme caution—gave up the post-chaise—walked on—took a hackney-coach—came to the Borough—last place in the world that he’d look in—ha! ha!—capital notion that—very.’

‘Don’t be long,’ said the spinster affectionately, as Mr. Jingle stuck the pinched-up hat on his head.

‘Long away from you?—Cruel charmer,’ and Mr. Jingle skipped playfully up to the spinster aunt, imprinted a chaste kiss upon her lips, and danced out of the room.

‘Dear man!’ said the spinster, as the door closed after him.

‘Rum old girl,’ said Mr. Jingle, as he walked down the passage.

It is painful to reflect upon the perfidy of our species; and we will not, therefore, pursue the thread of Mr. Jingle’s meditations, as he wended his way to Doctors’ Commons. It will be sufficient for our purpose to relate, that escaping the snares of the dragons in white aprons, who guard the entrance to that enchanted region, he reached the vicar-general’s office in safety and having procured a highly flattering address on parchment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to his ‘trusty and well-beloved Alfred Jingle and Rachael Wardle, greeting,’ he carefully deposited the mystic document in his pocket, and retraced his steps in triumph to the Borough.

He was yet on his way to the White Hart, when two plump gentleman and one thin one entered the yard, and looked round in search of some authorised person of whom they could make a few inquiries. Mr. Samuel Weller happened to be at that moment engaged in burnishing a pair of painted tops, the personal property of a farmer who was refreshing himself with a slight lunch of two or three pounds of cold beef and a pot or two of porter, after the fatigues of the Borough market; and to him the thin gentleman straightway advanced.

‘My friend,’ said the thin gentleman.

‘You’re one o’ the adwice gratis order,’ thought Sam, ‘or you wouldn’t be so wery fond o’ me all at once.’ But he only said—‘Well, Sir.’

‘My friend,’ said the thin gentleman, with a conciliatory hem—‘have you got many people stopping here now? Pretty busy. Eh?’

Sam stole a look at the inquirer. He was a little high-dried man, with a dark squeezed-up face, and small, restless, black eyes, that kept winking and twinkling on each side of his little inquisitive nose, as if they were playing a perpetual game of peep-bo with that feature. He was dressed all in black, with boots as shiny as his eyes, a low white neckcloth, and a clean shirt with a frill to it. A gold watch-chain, and seals, depended from his fob. He carried his black kid gloves in his hands, and not ON them; and as he spoke, thrust his wrists beneath his coat tails, with the air of a man who was in the habit of propounding some regular posers.

‘Pretty busy, eh?’ said the little man.

‘Oh, wery well, Sir,’ replied Sam, ‘we shan’t be bankrupts, and we shan’t make our fort’ns. We eats our biled mutton without capers, and don’t care for horse-radish ven ve can get beef.’

‘Ah,’ said the little man, ‘you’re a wag, ain’t you?’

‘My eldest brother was troubled with that complaint,’ said Sam; ‘it may be catching—I used to sleep with him.’

‘This is a curious old house of yours,’ said the little man, looking round him.

‘If you’d sent word you was a-coming, we’d ha’ had it repaired;’ replied the imperturbable Sam.

The little man seemed rather baffled by these several repulses, and a short consultation took place between him and the two plump gentlemen. At its conclusion, the little man took a pinch of snuff from an oblong silver box, and was apparently on the point of renewing the conversation, when one of the plump gentlemen, who in addition to a benevolent countenance, possessed a pair of spectacles, and a pair of black gaiters, interfered—

‘The fact of the matter is,’ said the benevolent gentleman, ‘that my friend here (pointing to the other plump gentleman) will give you half a guinea, if you’ll answer one or two—’

‘Now, my dear sir—my dear Sir,’ said the little man, ‘pray, allow me—my dear Sir, the very first principle to be observed in these cases, is this: if you place the matter in the hands of a professional man, you must in no way interfere in the progress of the business; you must repose implicit confidence in him. Really, Mr.—’ He turned to the other plump gentleman, and said, ‘I forget your friend’s name.’

‘Pickwick,’ said Mr. Wardle, for it was no other than that jolly personage.

‘Ah, Pickwick—really Mr. Pickwick, my dear Sir, excuse me—I shall be happy to receive any private suggestions of yours, as AMICUS CURIAE, but you must see the impropriety of your interfering with my conduct in this case, with such an AD CAPTANDUM argument as the offer of half a guinea. Really, my dear Sir, really;’ and the little man took an argumentative pinch of snuff, and looked very profound.

‘My only wish, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘was to bring this very unpleasant matter to as speedy a close as possible.’

‘Quite right—quite right,’ said the little man.

‘With which view,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, ‘I made use of the argument which my experience of men has taught me is the most likely to succeed in any case.’

‘Ay, ay,’ said the little man, ‘very good, very good, indeed; but you should have suggested it to me. My dear sir, I’m quite certain you cannot be ignorant of the extent of confidence which must be placed in professional men. If any authority can be necessary on such a point, my dear sir, let me refer you to the well-known case in Barnwell and—’

‘Never mind George Barnwell,’ interrupted Sam, who had remained a wondering listener during this short colloquy; ‘everybody knows what sort of a case his was, tho’ it’s always been my opinion, mind you, that the young ‘ooman deserved scragging a precious sight more than he did. Hows’ever, that’s neither here nor there. You want me to accept of half a guinea. Wery well, I’m agreeable: I can’t say no fairer than that, can I, sir?’ (Mr. Pickwick smiled.) Then the next question is, what the devil do you want with me, as the man said, wen he see the ghost?’

‘We want to know—’ said Mr. Wardle.

‘Now, my dear sir—my dear sir,’ interposed the busy little man.

Mr. Wardle shrugged his shoulders, and was silent.

‘We want to know,’ said the little man solemnly; ‘and we ask the question of you, in order that we may not awaken apprehensions inside—we want to know who you’ve got in this house at present?’

‘Who there is in the house!’ said Sam, in whose mind the inmates were always represented by that particular article of their costume, which came under his immediate superintendence. ‘There’s a vooden leg in number six; there’s a pair of Hessians in thirteen; there’s two pair of halves in the commercial; there’s these here painted tops in the snuggery inside the bar; and five more tops in the coffee-room.’

‘Nothing more?’ said the little man.

‘Stop a bit,’ replied Sam, suddenly recollecting himself. ‘Yes; there’s a pair of Vellingtons a good deal worn, and a pair o’ lady’s shoes, in number five.’

‘What sort of shoes?’ hastily inquired Wardle, who, together with Mr. Pickwick, had been lost in bewilderment at the singular catalogue of visitors.

‘Country make,’ replied Sam.

‘Any maker’s name?’

‘Brown.’

‘Where of?’

‘Muggleton.

‘It is them,’ exclaimed Wardle. ‘By heavens, we’ve found them.’

‘Hush!’ said Sam. ‘The Vellingtons has gone to Doctors’ Commons.’

‘No,’ said the little man.

‘Yes, for a licence.’

‘We’re in time,’ exclaimed Wardle. ‘Show us the room; not a moment is to be lost.’

‘Pray, my dear sir—pray,’ said the little man; ‘caution, caution.’ He drew from his pocket a red silk purse, and looked very hard at Sam as he drew out a sovereign.

Sam grinned expressively.

‘Show us into the room at once, without announcing us,’ said the little man, ‘and it’s yours.’

Sam threw the painted tops into a corner, and led the way through a dark passage, and up a wide staircase. He paused at the end of a second passage, and held out his hand.

‘Here it is,’ whispered the attorney, as he deposited the money on the hand of their guide.

The man stepped forward for a few paces, followed by the two friends and their legal adviser. He stopped at a door.

‘Is this the room?’ murmured the little gentleman.

Sam nodded assent.

Old Wardle opened the door; and the whole three walked into the room just as Mr. Jingle, who had that moment returned, had produced the licence to the spinster aunt.

The spinster uttered a loud shriek, and throwing herself into a chair, covered her face with her hands. Mr. Jingle crumpled up the licence, and thrust it into his coat pocket. The unwelcome visitors advanced into the middle of the room.

‘You—you are a nice rascal, arn’t you?’ exclaimed Wardle, breathless with passion.

‘My dear Sir, my dear sir,’ said the little man, laying his hat on the table, ‘pray, consider—pray. Defamation of character: action for damages. Calm yourself, my dear sir, pray—’

‘How dare you drag my sister from my house?’ said the old man.

Ay—ay—very good,’ said the little gentleman, ‘you may ask that. How dare you, sir?—eh, sir?’

‘Who the devil are you?’ inquired Mr. Jingle, in so fierce a tone, that the little gentleman involuntarily fell back a step or two.

‘Who is he, you scoundrel,’ interposed Wardle. ‘He’s my lawyer, Mr. Perker, of Gray’s Inn. Perker, I’ll have this fellow prosecuted—indicted—I’ll—I’ll—I’ll ruin him. And you,’ continued Mr. Wardle, turning abruptly round to his sister—‘you, Rachael, at a time of life when you ought to know better, what do you mean by running away with a vagabond, disgracing your family, and making yourself miserable? Get on your bonnet and come back. Call a hackney-coach there, directly, and bring this lady’s bill, d’ye hear—d’ye hear?’

Cert’nly, Sir,’ replied Sam, who had answered Wardle’s violent ringing of the bell with a degree of celerity which must have appeared marvellous to anybody who didn’t know that his eye had been applied to the outside of the keyhole during the whole interview.

‘Get on your bonnet,’ repeated Wardle.

‘Do nothing of the kind,’ said Jingle. ‘Leave the room, Sir—no business here—lady’s free to act as she pleases—more than one-and-twenty.’

‘More than one-and-twenty!’ ejaculated Wardle contemptuously. ‘More than one-and-forty!’

‘I ain’t,’ said the spinster aunt, her indignation getting the better of her determination to faint.

‘You are,’ replied Wardle; ‘you’re fifty if you’re an hour.’

Here the spinster aunt uttered a loud shriek, and became senseless.

‘A glass of water,’ said the humane Mr. Pickwick, summoning the landlady.

‘A glass of water!’ said the passionate Wardle. ‘Bring a bucket, and throw it all over her; it’ll do her good, and she richly deserves it.’

‘Ugh, you brute!’ ejaculated the kind-hearted landlady. ‘Poor dear.’ And with sundry ejaculations of ‘Come now, there’s a dear—drink a little of this—it’ll do you good—don’t give way so—there’s a love,’ etc. etc., the landlady, assisted by a chambermaid, proceeded to vinegar the forehead, beat the hands, titillate the nose, and unlace the stays of the spinster aunt, and to administer such other restoratives as are usually applied by compassionate females to ladies who are endeavouring to ferment themselves into hysterics.

‘Coach is ready, Sir,’ said Sam, appearing at the door.

‘Come along,’ cried Wardle. ‘I’ll carry her downstairs.’

At this proposition, the hysterics came on with redoubled violence.

The landlady was about to enter a very violent protest against this proceeding, and had already given vent to an indignant inquiry whether Mr. Wardle considered himself a lord of the creation, when Mr. Jingle interposed—

‘Boots,’ said he, ‘get me an officer.’

‘Stay, stay,’ said little Mr. Perker. ‘Consider, Sir, consider.’

‘I’ll not consider,’ replied Jingle. ‘She’s her own mistress—see who dares to take her away—unless she wishes it.’

‘I won’t be taken away,’ murmured the spinster aunt. ‘I don’t wish it.’ (Here there was a frightful relapse.)

‘My dear Sir,’ said the little man, in a low tone, taking Mr. Wardle and Mr. Pickwick apart—‘my dear Sir, we’re in a very awkward situation. It’s a distressing case—very; I never knew one more so; but really, my dear sir, really we have no power to control this lady’s actions. I warned you before we came, my dear sir, that there was nothing to look to but a compromise.’

There was a short pause.

‘What kind of compromise would you recommend?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, my dear Sir, our friend’s in an unpleasant position—very much so. We must be content to suffer some pecuniary loss.’

‘I’ll suffer any, rather than submit to this disgrace, and let her, fool as she is, be made miserable for life,’ said Wardle.

‘I rather think it can be done,’ said the bustling little man. ‘Mr. Jingle, will you step with us into the next room for a moment?’

Mr. Jingle assented, and the quartette walked into an empty apartment.

‘Now, sir,’ said the little man, as he carefully closed the door, ‘is there no way of accommodating this matter—step this way, sir, for a moment—into this window, Sir, where we can be alone—there, sir, there, pray sit down, sir. Now, my dear Sir, between you and I, we know very well, my dear Sir, that you have run off with this lady for the sake of her money. Don’t frown, Sir, don’t frown; I say, between you and I, we know it. We are both men of the world, and WE know very well that our friends here, are not—eh?’

Mr. Jingle’s face gradually relaxed; and something distantly resembling a wink quivered for an instant in his left eye.

‘Very good, very good,’ said the little man, observing the impression he had made. ‘Now, the fact is, that beyond a few hundreds, the lady has little or nothing till the death of her mother—fine old lady, my dear Sir.’

‘Old,’ said Mr. Jingle briefly but emphatically.

‘Why, yes,’ said the attorney, with a slight cough. ‘You are right, my dear Sir, she is rather old. She comes of an old family though, my dear Sir; old in every sense of the word. The founder of that family came into Kent when Julius Caesar invaded Britain;—only one member of it, since, who hasn’t lived to eighty-five, and he was beheaded by one of the Henrys. The old lady is not seventy-three now, my dear Sir.’ The little man paused, and took a pinch of snuff.

‘Well,’ cried Mr. Jingle.

‘Well, my dear sir—you don’t take snuff!—ah! so much the better—expensive habit—well, my dear Sir, you’re a fine young man, man of the world—able to push your fortune, if you had capital, eh?’

‘Well,’ said Mr. Jingle again.

‘Do you comprehend me?’

‘Not quite.’

‘Don’t you think—now, my dear Sir, I put it to you don’t you think—that fifty pounds and liberty would be better than Miss Wardle and expectation?’

‘Won’t do—not half enough!’ said Mr. Jingle, rising.

‘Nay, nay, my dear Sir,’ remonstrated the little attorney, seizing him by the button. ‘Good round sum—a man like you could treble it in no time—great deal to be done with fifty pounds, my dear Sir.’

‘More to be done with a hundred and fifty,’ replied Mr. Jingle coolly.

‘Well, my dear Sir, we won’t waste time in splitting straws,’ resumed the little man, ‘say—say—seventy.’

Won’t do,’ said Mr. Jingle.

‘Don’t go away, my dear sir—pray don’t hurry,’ said the little man. ‘Eighty; come: I’ll write you a cheque at once.’

‘Won’t do,’ said Mr. Jingle.

‘Well, my dear Sir, well,’ said the little man, still detaining him; ‘just tell me what will do.’

‘Expensive affair,’ said Mr. Jingle. ‘Money out of pocket—posting, nine pounds; licence, three—that’s twelve—compensation, a hundred—hundred and twelve—breach of honour—and loss of the lady—’

‘Yes, my dear Sir, yes,’ said the little man, with a knowing look, ‘never mind the last two items. That’s a hundred and twelve—say a hundred—come.’

‘And twenty,’ said Mr. Jingle.

‘Come, come, I’ll write you a cheque,’ said the little man; and down he sat at the table for that purpose.

‘I’ll make it payable the day after to-morrow,’ said the little man, with a look towards Mr. Wardle; ‘and we can get the lady away, meanwhile.’ Mr. Wardle sullenly nodded assent.

‘A hundred,’ said the little man.

‘And twenty,’ said Mr. Jingle.

‘My dear Sir,’ remonstrated the little man.

‘Give it him,’ interposed Mr. Wardle, ‘and let him go.’

The cheque was written by the little gentleman, and pocketed by Mr. Jingle.

‘Now, leave this house instantly!’ said Wardle, starting up.

‘My dear Sir,’ urged the little man.

‘And mind,’ said Mr. Wardle, ‘that nothing should have induced me to make this compromise—not even a regard for my family—if I had not known that the moment you got any money in that pocket of yours, you’d go to the devil faster, if possible, than you would without it—’

‘My dear sir,’ urged the little man again.

‘Be quiet, Perker,’ resumed Wardle. ‘Leave the room, Sir.’

‘Off directly,’ said the unabashed Jingle. ‘Bye bye, Pickwick.’

If any dispassionate spectator could have beheld the countenance of the illustrious man, whose name forms the leading feature of the title of this work, during the latter part of this conversation, he would have been almost induced to wonder that the indignant fire which flashed from his eyes did not melt the glasses of his spectacles—so majestic was his wrath. His nostrils dilated, and his fists clenched involuntarily, as he heard himself addressed by the villain. But he restrained himself again—he did not pulverise him.

‘Here,’ continued the hardened traitor, tossing the licence at Mr. Pickwick’s feet; ‘get the name altered—take home the lady—do for Tuppy.’

Mr. Pickwick was a philosopher, but philosophers are only men in armour, after all. The shaft had reached him, penetrated through his philosophical harness, to his very heart. In the frenzy of his rage, he hurled the inkstand madly forward, and followed it up himself. But Mr. Jingle had disappeared, and he found himself caught in the arms of Sam.

‘Hollo,’ said that eccentric functionary, ‘furniter’s cheap where you come from, Sir. Self-acting ink, that ‘ere; it’s wrote your mark upon the wall, old gen’l’m’n. Hold still, Sir; wot’s the use o’ runnin’ arter a man as has made his lucky, and got to t’other end of the Borough by this time?’

Mr. Pickwick’s mind, like those of all truly great men, was open to conviction. He was a quick and powerful reasoner; and a moment’s reflection sufficed to remind him of the impotency of his rage. It subsided as quickly as it had been roused. He panted for breath, and looked benignantly round upon his friends.

Shall we tell the lamentations that ensued when Miss Wardle found herself deserted by the faithless Jingle? Shall we extract Mr. Pickwick’s masterly description of that heartrending scene? His note-book, blotted with the tears of sympathising humanity, lies open before us; one word, and it is in the printer’s hands. But, no! we will be resolute! We will not wring the public bosom, with the delineation of such suffering!

Slowly and sadly did the two friends and the deserted lady return next day in the Muggleton heavy coach. Dimly and darkly had the sombre shadows of a summer’s night fallen upon all around, when they again reached Dingley Dell, and stood within the entrance to Manor Farm.