'The old man was ghastly pale. He shuddered and tottered tohis 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. Theconvict drew closer
'"Stand off!" shrieked the old man. Furious with terror, heraised his stick,
and struck Edmunds a heavy blow across the face.
'"Father--devil!" murmured the convict between his setteeth. He rushed wildly
forward, and clenched the old man bythe throat--but he was his father; and his arm
fell powerless byhis side.
'The old man uttered a loud yell which rang through thelonely fields like the
howl of an evil spirit. His face turned black,the gore rushed from his mouth and
nose, and dyed the grass adeep, dark red, as he staggered and fell. He had ruptured
ablood-vessel, and he was a dead man before his son could raise him.'In that corner
of the churchyard,' said the old gentleman, aftera silence of a few moments, 'in
that corner of the churchyard ofwhich I have before spoken, there lies buried a
man who was inmy employment for three years after this event, and who wastruly contrite,
penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No onesave myself knew in that man's lifetime
who he was, or whence hecame--it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.'
CHAPTER VIIHOW Mr. WINKLE, INSTEAD OF SHOOTING AT THE PIGEONAND KILLING THE CROW,
SHOT AT THE CROW ANDWOUNDED THE PIGEON; HOW THE DINGLEY DELLCRICKET 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 influenceof the clergyman's
tale operated so strongly on the drowsytendencies of Mr. Pickwick, that in less
than five minutesafter he had been shown to his comfortable bedroom he fellinto
a sound and dreamless sleep, from which he was only awakenedby the morning sun darting
his bright beams reproachfully into theapartment. Mr. Pickwick was no sluggard,
and he sprang like anardent warrior from his tent-bedstead.
'Pleasant, pleasant country,' sighed the enthusiastic gentleman,as he opened
his lattice window. 'Who could live to gaze fromday to day on bricks and slates
who had once felt the influence ofa scene like this? Who could continue to exist
where there are nocows but the cows on the chimney-pots; nothing redolent of Panbut
pan-tiles; no crop but stone crop? Who could bear to dragout 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 outof the
lattice and looked around him.
The rich, sweet smell of the hay-ricks rose to his chamberwindow; the hundred
perfumes of the little flower-gardenbeneath scented the air around; the deep-green
meadows shonein the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembledin the
gentle air; and the birds sang as if every sparkling dropwere to them a fountain
of inspiration. Mr. Pickwick fell into anenchanting and delicious reverie.
'Hollo!' was the sound that roused him.
He looked to the right, but he saw nobody; his eyes wanderedto the left, and
pierced the prospect; he stared into the sky, but hewasn't wanted there; and then
he did what a common mindwould have done at once--looked into the garden, and there
sawMr. Wardle.'How are you?' said the good-humoured individual, out ofbreath with
his own anticipations of pleasure.'Beautiful morning,ain't it? Glad to see you up
so early. Make haste down, andcome out. I'll wait for you here.'Mr. Pickwick needed
no second invitation. Ten minutessufficed for the completion of his toilet, and
at the expiration ofthat time he was by the old gentleman's side.
'Hollo!' said Mr. Pickwick in his turn, seeing that hiscompanion was armed with
a gun, and that another lay ready on thegrass; '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 morningdid 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 andMr. 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 wayfrom the garden.
'This is the place,' said the old gentleman, pausing after a fewminutes walking,
in an avenue of trees. The information wasunnecessary; for the incessant cawing
of the unconscious rookssufficiently 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, theforms of Mr. Tupman,
Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Winkle appearedin the distance. The fat boy, not being quite
certain whichgentleman he was directed to call, had with peculiar sagacity, andto
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 thespare gun with an expression
of countenance which a metaphysicalrook, impressed with a foreboding of his approachingdeath
by violence, may be supposed to assume. It might havebeen keenness, but it looked
remarkably like misery.The old gentleman nodded; and two ragged boys who hadbeen
marshalled to the spot under the direction of the infantLambert, forthwith commenced
climbing up two of the trees.'What are these lads for?' inquired Mr. Pickwick abruptly.
Hewas rather alarmed; for he was not quite certain but that thedistress of the agricultural
interest, about which he had oftenheard a great deal, might have compelled the small
boys attachedto the soil to earn a precarious and hazardous subsistence bymaking
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?'
'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 adozen young rooks
in violent conversation, flew out to ask whatthe matter was. The old gentleman fired
by way of reply. Downfell 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 andhis friends cowered
involuntarily to escape damage from theheavy fall of rooks, which they felt quite
certain would beoccasioned by the devastating barrel of their friend. There was
asolemn 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--probablyfrom disappointment.
'Odd,' said the old gentleman, taking the gun. 'Never knew oneof 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 crouchedagain. Mr. Winkle stepped
forward with an air of determinationand resolution; and Mr. Tupman looked out from
behind a tree.The boy shouted; four birds flew out. Mr. Winkle fired. Therewas a
scream as of an individual--not a rook--in corporalanguish. Mr. Tupman had saved
the lives of innumerableunoffending 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 calledMr. Winkle 'Wretch!' how Mr. Tupman lay
prostrate on theground; and how Mr. Winkle knelt horror-stricken beside him;how
Mr. Tupman called distractedly upon some feminineChristian name, and then opened
first one eye, and then theother, and then fell back and shut them both--all this
would beas difficult to describe in detail, as it would be to depict thegradual
recovering of the unfortunate individual, the binding upof his arm with pocket-handkerchiefs,
and the conveying himback 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 auntappeared; she smiled, and beckoned
them to walk quicker. 'Twasevident she knew not of the disaster. Poor thing! there
are timeswhen ignorance is bliss indeed.
They approached nearer.
'Why, what is the matter with the little old gentleman?' saidIsabella Wardle.
The spinster aunt heeded not the remark; shethought it applied to Mr. Pickwick.
In her eyes Tracy Tupmanwas a youth; she viewed his years through a diminishing
'Don't be frightened,' called out the old host, fearful ofalarming his daughters.
The little party had crowded socompletely round Mr. Tupman, that they could not
yet clearlydiscern 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 anhysteric 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?--Ishe-- Ha, ha, ha!' Here the spinster aunt burst into
fit numbertwo, of hysteric laughter interspersed with screams.
'Calm yourself,' said Mr. Tupman, affected almost to tears bythis expression
of sympathy with his sufferings. 'Dear, dearmadam, calm yourself.'
'It is his voice!' exclaimed the spinster aunt; and strongsymptoms of fit number
three developed themselves forthwith.
'Do not agitate yourself, I entreat you, dearest madam,' saidMr. Tupman soothingly.
'I am very little hurt, I assure you.'
'Then you are not dead!' ejaculated the hysterical lady. 'Oh,say you are not
'Don't be a fool, Rachael,' interposed Mr. Wardle, rathermore roughly than was
consistent with the poetic nature of thescene. 'What the devil's the use of his
saying he isn't dead?'
'No, no, I am not,' said Mr. Tupman. 'I require no assistancebut yours. Let me
lean on your arm.' He added, in a whisper,'Oh, Miss Rachael!' The agitated female
advanced, and offeredher arm. They turned into the breakfast parlour. Mr. TracyTupman
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 betterpresently.' He closed
'He sleeps,' murmured the spinster aunt. (His organs of visionhad 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!' shesaid bashfully.
'Oh, yes, I did!' replied Mr. Tupman; 'repeat them. If youwould 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 pronouncedto be a very slight one;
and the minds of the company havingbeen thus satisfied, they proceeded to satisfy
their appetites withcountenances to which an expression of cheerfulness was againrestored.
Mr. Pickwick alone was silent and reserved. Doubt anddistrust were exhibited in
his countenance. His confidence inMr. Winkle had been shaken--greatly shaken--by
the proceedingsof the morning.'Are you a cricketer?' inquired Mr. Wardle of the
At any other time, Mr. Winkle would have replied in theaffirmative. He felt the
delicacy of his situation, and modestlyreplied, 'No.'
'Are you, sir?' inquired Mr. Snodgrass.
'I was once upon a time,' replied the host; 'but I have given itup 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 sportswhich may be
safely indulged in, and in which the impotenteffects of unskilful people do not
endanger human life.' Mr.Pickwick paused, and looked steadily on Mr. Winkle, whoquailed
beneath his leader's searching glance. The great manwithdrew his eyes after a few
minutes, and added: 'Shall we bejustified 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 athome in charge of the
females; and that the remainder of theguests, under the guidance of Mr. Wardle,
should proceed to thespot where was to be held that trial of skill, which had roused
allMuggleton from its torpor, and inoculated Dingley Dell with afever of excitement.