'Where is Mr. Pott?' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, as she placed the aforesaid lions around her.
'Here I am,' said the editor, from the remotest end of the room; far beyond all hope of food, unless something was done for him by the hostess.
'Won't you come up here?'
'Oh, pray don't mind him,' said Mrs. Pott, in the most obliging voice--'you give yourself a great deal of unnecessary trouble, Mrs. Hunter. You'll do very well there, won't you--dear?'
'Certainly--love,' replied the unhappy Pott, with a grim smile. Alas for the knout! The nervous arm that wielded it, with such a gigantic force on public characters, was paralysed beneath the glance of the imperious Mrs. Pott.
Mrs. Leo Hunter looked round her in triumph. Count Smorltork was busily engaged in taking notes of the contents of the dishes; Mr. Tupman was doing the honours of the lobster salad to several lionesses, with a degree of grace which no brigand ever exhibited before; Mr. Snodgrass having cut out the young gentleman who cut up the books for the Eatanswill GAZETTE, was engaged in an impassioned argument with the young lady who did the poetry; and Mr. Pickwick was making himself universally agreeable. Nothing seemed wanting to render the select circle complete, when Mr. Leo Hunter--whose department on these occasions, was to stand about in doorways, and talk to the less important people--suddenly called out-- 'My dear; here's Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall.'
'Oh dear,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'how anxiously I have been expecting him. Pray make room, to let Mr. Fitz-Marshall pass. Tell Mr. Fitz-Marshall, my dear, to come up to me directly, to be scolded for coming so late.'
'Coming, my dear ma'am,' cried a voice, 'as quick as I can-- crowds of people--full room--hard work--very.'
Mr. Pickwick's knife and fork fell from his hand. He stared across the table at Mr. Tupman, who had dropped his knife and fork, and was looking as if he were about to sink into the ground without further notice.
'Ah!' cried the voice, as its owner pushed his way among the last five-and-twenty Turks, officers, cavaliers, and Charles the Seconds, that remained between him and the table, 'regular mangle--Baker's patent--not a crease in my coat, after all this squeezing--might have "got up my linen" as I came along-- ha! ha! not a bad idea, that--queer thing to have it mangled when it's upon one, though--trying process--very.'
With these broken words, a young man dressed as a naval officer made his way up to the table, and presented to the astonished Pickwickians the identical form and features of Mr. Alfred Jingle. The offender had barely time to take Mrs. Leo Hunter's proffered hand, when his eyes encountered the indignant orbs of Mr. Pickwick.
'Hollo!' said Jingle. 'Quite forgot--no directions to postillion --give 'em at once--back in a minute.'
'The servant, or Mr. Hunter will do it in a moment, Mr. Fitz-Marshall,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter.
'No, no--I'll do it--shan't be long--back in no time,' replied Jingle. With these words he disappeared among the crowd.
'Will you allow me to ask you, ma'am,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick, rising from his seat, 'who that young man is, and where he resides?'
'He is a gentleman of fortune, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'to whom I very much want to introduce you. The count will be delighted with him.'
'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily. 'His residence--'
'Is at present at the Angel at Bury.'
'At Bury St. Edmunds, not many miles from here. But dear me, Mr. Pickwick, you are not going to leave us; surely Mr. Pickwick you cannot think of going so soon?'
But long before Mrs. Leo Hunter had finished speaking, Mr. Pickwick had plunged through the throng, and reached the garden, whither he was shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Tupman, who had followed his friend closely.
'It's of no use,' said Mr. Tupman. 'He has gone.'
'I know it,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and I will follow him.'
'Follow him! Where?' inquired Mr. Tupman.
'To the Angel at Bury,' replied Mr.