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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 18)


'Let him.'

'And he'll cut you.'

'Cut ME!' screamed the spinster aunt. 'HE cut ME; will he!' andshe 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 fiveminutes thereafter; and rose the accepted lover of the spinsteraunt--conditionally upon Mr. Tupman's perjury being madeclear and manifest.

The burden of proof lay with Mr. Alfred Jingle; and heproduced his evidence that very day at dinner. The spinster auntcould hardly believe her eyes. Mr. Tracy Tupman was establishedat Emily's side, ogling, whispering, and smiling, in opposition toMr. Snodgrass. Not a word, not a look, not a glance, did hebestow upon his heart's pride of the evening before.

'Damn that boy!' thought old Mr. Wardle to himself.--He hadheard the story from his mother. 'Damn that boy! He must havebeen asleep. It's all imagination.'

'Traitor!' thought the spinster aunt. 'Dear Mr. Jingle was notdeceiving me. Ugh! how I hate the wretch!'

The following conversation may serve to explain to our readersthis apparently unaccountable alteration of deportment on thepart of Mr. Tracy Tupman.

The time was evening; the scene the garden. There were twofigures 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 mustrepeat 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--avertsuspicion--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--sayhow hard I find it to dissemble--say anything that's kind: but addhow sensible I am of the necessity of the suggestion she made tome, through you, this morning. Say I applaud her wisdom andadmire her discretion.''I will. Anything more?'

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

'Certainly, certainly. Anything more?'

'Oh, my friend!' said poor Mr. Tupman, again grasping thehand of his companion, 'receive my warmest thanks for yourdisinterested kindness; and forgive me if I have ever, even inthought, done you the injustice of supposing that you could standin my way. My dear friend, can I ever repay you?'

'Don't talk of it,' replied Mr. Jingle. He stopped short, as ifsuddenly recollecting something, and said--'By the bye--can'tspare ten pounds, can you?--very particular purpose--pay youin three days.'

'I dare say I can,' replied Mr. Tupman, in the fulness of hisheart. '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 walkedtowards 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 theyentered the house.

The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and onthe three afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth,the host was in high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that therewas no ground for the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr.Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had told him that his affair would soonbe brought to a crisis. So was Mr. Pickwick, for he was seldomotherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for he had grown jealousof Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had been winningat whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons ofsufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated inanother chapter.

CHAPTER IXA DISCOVERY AND A CHASE

The supper was ready laid, the chairs were drawn round thetable, bottles, jugs, and glasses were arranged upon thesideboard, and everything betokened the approach of the mostconvivial 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 uppresently, 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, andMr. Pickwick was supplied with a plentiful portion of it. He hadraised his fork to his lips, and was on the very point of openinghis mouth for the reception of a piece of beef, when the hum ofmany voices suddenly arose in the kitchen. He paused, and laiddown his fork. Mr. Wardle paused too, and insensibly releasedhis hold of the carving-knife, which remained insertedin the beef. He looked at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick lookedat him.

Heavy footsteps were heard in the passage; the parlour doorwas 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 theold 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 thisjuncture Mr. Tupman was observed to lay down his knife andfork, 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 totell '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, theunhappy gentleman spun round and round the apartment, in atransport of frenzy.

'Lord preserve us!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, eyeing theextraordinary gestures of his friend with terrified surprise. 'He'sgone mad! What shall we do?''Do!' said the stout old host, who regarded only the last wordsof the sentence. 'Put the horse in the gig! I'll get a chaise at theLion, and follow 'em instantly. Where?'--he exclaimed, as theman 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 thefat boy's.

'Let me get at him, Pickwick,' cried Wardle, as he rushed at theill-starred youth. 'He was bribed by that scoundrel, Jingle, to putme on a wrong scent, by telling a cock-and-bull story of mysister and your friend Tupman!' (Here Mr. Tupman sank into achair.) 'Let me get at him!'

'Don't let him!' screamed all the women, above whoseexclamations the blubbering of the fat boy was distinctly audible.

'I won't be held!' cried the old man. 'Mr. Winkle, take yourhands 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 ofMr. Pickwick's face, albeit somewhat flushed with exertion, as hestood with his arms firmly clasped round the extensive waist oftheir corpulent host, thus restraining the impetuosity of hispassion, while the fat boy was scratched, and pulled, and pushedfrom the room by all the females congregated therein. He had nosooner released his hold, than the man entered to announce thatthe gig was ready.

'Don't let him go alone!' screamed the females. 'He'll killsomebody!'

'I'll go with him,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'You're a good fellow, Pickwick,' said the host, grasping hishand. 'Emma, give Mr. Pickwick a shawl to tie round his neck--make haste. Look after your grandmother, girls; she has faintedaway. Now then, are you ready?'

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

They jumped into the gig. 'Give her her head, Tom,' cried thehost; and away they went, down the narrow lanes; jolting in andout of the cart-ruts, and bumping up against the hedges on eitherside, as if they would go to pieces every moment.

'How much are they ahead?' shouted Wardle, as they drove upto the door of the Blue Lion, round which a little crowd hadcollected, 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 gigafterwards.'

'Now, boys!' cried the landlord--'chaise-and-four out--makehaste--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 theuneven paving of the yard; the chaise rumbled as it was drawn outof 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, thehostlers cheered, and away they went, fast and furiously.

'Pretty situation,' thought Mr. Pickwick, when he had had amoment's time for reflection. 'Pretty situation for the generalchairman 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 byeither of the gentlemen, each being too much immersed in his ownreflections to address any observations to his companion. Whenthey had gone over that much ground, however, and the horsesgetting thoroughly warmed began to do their work in reallygood style, Mr. Pickwick became too much exhilarated with therapidity 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, whichwas shining brightly.

'So much the worse,' returned Wardle; 'for they'll have had allthe advantage of the moonlight to get the start of us, and we shalllose 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 alittle, as he reflected upon the inconveniences and dangers ofthe 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, mostlustily, with his head and half his body out of the coach window.

'Yo-yo-yo-yoe!' shouted Mr. Pickwick, taking up theburden of the cry, though he had not the slightest notion of itsmeaning 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 somethingof the fugitives.'

After a lapse of five minutes, consumed in incessant knockingand shouting, an old man in his shirt and trousers emerged fromthe 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 itworn't a short time ago--just between the two, perhaps.'

'Has any chaise been by at all?'

'Oh, yes, there's been a Shay 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 mandoubtfully.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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