'If he ever comes back, I'll poison him,' thought Mr. Pott, as he turned into the little back office where he prepared his thunderbolts.
'If I ever do come back, and mix myself up with these people again,'thought Mr. Winkle, as he wended his way to the Peacock, 'I shall deserve to be horsewhipped myself--that's all.'
His friends were ready, the coach was nearly so, and in half an hour they were proceeding on their journey, along the road over which Mr. Pickwick and Sam had so recently travelled, and of which, as we have already said something, we do not feel called upon to extract Mr. Snodgrass's poetical and beautiful description.
Mr. Weller was standing at the door of the Angel, ready to receive them, and by that gentleman they were ushered to the apartment of Mr. Pickwick, where, to the no small surprise of Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass, and the no small embarrassment of Mr. Tupman, they found old Wardle and Trundle.
'How are you?' said the old man, grasping Mr. Tupman's hand. 'Don't hang back, or look sentimental about it; it can't be helped, old fellow. For her sake, I wish you'd had her; for your own, I'm very glad you have not. A young fellow like you will do better one of these days, eh?' With this conclusion, Wardle slapped Mr. Tupman on the back, and laughed heartily.
'Well, and how are you, my fine fellows?' said the old gentleman, shaking hands with Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass at the same time. 'I have just been telling Pickwick that we must have you all down at Christmas. We're going to have a wedding--a real wedding this time.'
'A wedding!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, turning very pale.
'Yes, a wedding. But don't be frightened,' said the good- humoured old man; 'it's only Trundle there, and Bella.'
'Oh, is that all?' said Mr. Snodgrass, relieved from a painful doubt which had fallen heavily on his breast. 'Give you joy, Sir. How is Joe?'
'Very well,' replied the old gentleman. 'Sleepy as ever.'
'And your mother, and the clergyman, and all of 'em?'
'Where,' said Mr. Tupman, with an effort--'where is--SHE, Sir?' and he turned away his head, and covered his eyes with his hand. 'SHE!' said the old gentleman, with a knowing shake of the head. 'Do you mean my single relative--eh?'
Mr. Tupman, by a nod, intimated that his question applied to the disappointed Rachael.
'Oh, she's gone away,' said the old gentleman. 'She's living at a relation's, far enough off. She couldn't bear to see the girls, so I let her go. But come! Here's the dinner. You must be hungry after your ride. I am, without any ride at all; so let us fall to.'
Ample justice was done to the meal; and when they were seated round the table, after it had been disposed of, Mr. Pickwick, to the intense horror and indignation of his followers, related the adventure he had undergone, and the success which had attended the base artifices of the diabolical Jingle. 'And the attack of rheumatism which I caught in that garden,' said Mr. Pickwick, in conclusion, 'renders me lame at this moment.'
'I, too, have had something of an adventure,' said Mr. Winkle, with a smile; and, at the request of Mr. Pickwick, he detailed the malicious libel of the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT, and the consequent excitement of their friend, the editor.
Mr. Pickwick's brow darkened during the recital. His friends observed it, and, when Mr. Winkle had concluded, maintained a profound silence. Mr. Pickwick struck the table emphatically with his clenched fist, and spoke as follows:--
'Is it not a wonderful circumstance,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that we seem destined to enter no man's house without involving him in some degree of trouble? Does it not, I ask, bespeak the indiscretion, or, worse than that, the blackness of heart--that I should say so!--of my followers, that, beneath whatever roof they locate, they disturb the peace of mind and happiness of some confiding female? Is it not, I say--'
Mr. Pickwick would in all probability have gone on for some time, had not the entrance of Sam, with a letter, caused him to break off in his eloquent discourse.