Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 9 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 betokene_he 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’_hink I’ve heard his voice for two hours at least. Emily, my dear, ring th_ell.’
  • The bell was rung, and the fat boy appeared.
  • ‘Where’s Miss Rachael?’ He couldn’t say. ‘Where’s Mr. Jingle, then?’ He didn’_now. Everybody looked surprised. It was late—past eleven o’clock. Mr. Tupma_aughed 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, _are 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 wa_upplied 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 o_eef, 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 hi_old of the carving–knife, which remained inserted in the beef. He looked a_r. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick looked at him.
  • Heavy footsteps were heard in the passage; the parlour door was suddenly burs_pen; 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 th_evil’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. _as 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 te_ounds of mine!—stop him!—he’s swindled me!—I won’t bear it!—I’ll hav_ustice, Pickwick!—I won’t stand it!’ and with sundry incoherent exclamation_f 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 gesture_f 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 th_entence. ‘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 th_ommission—‘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–starre_outh. ‘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!’ (Her_r. Tupman sank into a chair.) ‘Let me get at him!’
  • ‘Don’t let him!’ screamed all the women, above whose exclamations th_lubbering 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 behol_he placid and philosophical expression of Mr. Pickwick’s face, albei_omewhat flushed with exertion, as he stood with his arms firmly clasped roun_he extensive waist of their corpulent host, thus restraining the impetuosit_f his passion, while the fat boy was scratched, and pulled, and pushed fro_he room by all the females congregated therein. He had no sooner released hi_old, 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 you_randmother, 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, h_eplied in the affirmative.
  • They jumped into the gig. ‘Give her her head, Tom,’ cried the host; and awa_hey went, down the narrow lanes; jolting in and out of the cart–ruts, an_umping up against the hedges on either side, as if they would go to piece_very moment.
  • ‘How much are they ahead?’ shouted Wardle, as they drove up to the door of th_lue 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–fou_irectly!—out with ’em! Put up the gig afterwards.’
  • ‘Now, boys!’ cried the landlord—‘chaise–and–four out—make haste—look aliv_here!’
  • Away ran the hostlers and the boys. The lanterns glimmered, as the men ran t_nd fro; the horses’ hoofs clattered on the uneven paving of the yard; th_haise rumbled as it was drawn out of the coach–house; and all was noise an_ustle.
  • ‘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 th_ravellers.
  • ‘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, an_way they went, fast and furiously.
  • ‘Pretty situation,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, when he had had a moment’s time fo_eflection. ‘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 th_entlemen, each being too much immersed in his own reflections to address an_bservations to his companion. When they had gone over that much ground, however, and the horses getting thoroughly warmed began to do their work i_eally good style, Mr. Pickwick became too much exhilarated with the rapidit_f 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 shinin_rightly.
  • ‘So much the worse,’ returned Wardle; ‘for they’ll have had all the advantag_f the moonlight to get the start of us, and we shall lose it. It will hav_one 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 h_eflected upon the inconveniences and dangers of the expedition in which h_ad so thoughtlessly embarked. He was roused by a loud shouting of th_ost–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 an_alf his body out of the coach window.
  • ‘Yo–yo–yo–yoe!’ shouted Mr. Pickwick, taking up the burden of the cry, thoug_e had not the slightest notion of its meaning or object. And amidst th_o–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 th_ugitives.’
  • After a lapse of five minutes, consumed in incessant knocking and shouting, a_ld man in his shirt and trousers emerged from the turnpike–house, and opene_he 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 shor_ime 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 man doubtfully.
  • ‘Drive on, boys,’ cried the testy old gentleman; ‘don’t waste any more tim_ith that old idiot!’
  • ‘Idiot!’ exclaimed the old man with a grin, as he stood in the middle of th_oad with the gate half–closed, watching the chaise which rapidly diminishe_n the increasing distance. ‘No—not much o’ that either; you’ve lost te_inutes here, and gone away as wise as you came, arter all. If every man o_he line as has a guinea give him, earns it half as well, you won’t catc_’other shay this side Mich’lmas, old short–and–fat.’ And with anothe_rolonged grin, the old man closed the gate, re–entered his house, and bolte_he door after him.
  • Meanwhile the chaise proceeded, without any slackening of pace, towards th_onclusion of the stage. The moon, as Wardle had foretold, was rapidly on th_ane; large tiers of dark, heavy clouds, which had been graduall_verspreading 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 window_f the chaise, seemed to warn the travellers of the rapid approach of a storm_ight. The wind, too, which was directly against them, swept in furious gust_own the narrow road, and howled dismally through the trees which skirted th_athway. Mr. Pickwick drew his coat closer about him, coiled himself mor_nugly up into the corner of the chaise, and fell into a sound sleep, fro_hich he was only awakened by the stopping of the vehicle, the sound of th_ostler’s bell, and a loud cry of ‘Horses on directly!’
  • But here another delay occurred. The boys were sleeping with such mysteriou_oundness, that it took five minutes a–piece to wake them. The hostler ha_omehow 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 whol_rocess of harnessing had to be gone through afresh. Had Mr. Pickwick bee_lone, these multiplied obstacles would have completely put an end to th_ursuit at once, but old Wardle was not to be so easily daunted; and he lai_bout 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 read_n a much shorter time than could reasonably have been expected, under so man_ifficulties.
  • They resumed their journey; and certainly the prospect before them was by n_eans encouraging. The stage was fifteen miles long, the night was dark, th_ind high, and the rain pouring in torrents. It was impossible to make an_reat 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, an_eanimated their drooping spirits.
  • ‘When did this chaise come in?’ cried old Wardle, leaping out of his ow_ehicle, and pointing to one covered with wet mud, which was standing in th_ard.
  • ‘Not a quarter of an hour ago, sir,’ replied the hostler, to whom the questio_as addressed. ‘Lady and gentleman?’ inquired Wardle, almost breathless wit_mpatience.
  • ‘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 shal_atch them yet before they reach the next stage. A guinea a–piece, boys–b_live there—bustle about—there’s good fellows.’
  • And with such admonitions as these, the old gentleman ran up and down th_ard, and bustled to and fro, in a state of excitement which communicate_tself to Mr. Pickwick also; and under the influence of which, that gentlema_ot himself into complicated entanglements with harness, and mixed up wit_orses and wheels of chaises, in the most surprising manner, firmly believin_hat by so doing he was materially forwarding the preparations for thei_esuming their journey.
  • ‘Jump in—jump in!’ cried old Wardle, climbing into the chaise, pulling up th_teps, and slamming the door after him. ‘Come along! Make haste!’ And befor_r. Pickwick knew precisely what he was about, he felt himself forced in a_he other door, by one pull from the old gentleman and one push from th_ostler; 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 collisio_ither 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 foremos_nto 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; an_n whirled the chaise faster than ever.
  • They had travelled in this way about three miles, when Mr. Wardle, who ha_een looking out of the Window for two or three minutes, suddenly drew in hi_ace, covered with splashes, and exclaimed in breathless eagerness—
  • ‘Here they are!’
  • Mr. Pickwick thrust his head out of his window. Yes: there was _haise–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 i_r. 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. Th_ountenance 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 hi_rm, which was waving violently towards the postillions, denoted that he wa_ncouraging them to increased exertion.
  • The interest was intense. Fields, trees, and hedges, seemed to rush past the_ith the velocity of a whirlwind, so rapid was the pace at which they tor_long. They were close by the side of the first chaise. Jingle’s voice coul_e plainly heard, even above the din of the wheels, urging on the boys. Ol_r. Wardle foamed with rage and excitement. He roared out scoundrels an_illains by the dozen, clenched his fist and shook it expressively at th_bject of his indignation; but Mr. Jingle only answered with a contemptuou_mile, and replied to his menaces by a shout of triumph, as his horses, answering the increased application of whip and spur, broke into a faste_allop, and left the pursuers behind.
  • Mr. Pickwick had just drawn in his head, and Mr. Wardle, exhausted wit_houting, had done the same, when a tremendous jolt threw them forward agains_he front of the vehicle. There was a sudden bump—a loud crash—away rolled _heel, and over went the chaise.
  • After a very few seconds of bewilderment and confusion, in which nothing bu_he plunging of horses, and breaking of glass could be made out, Mr. Pickwic_elt himself violently pulled out from among the ruins of the chaise; and a_oon as he had gained his feet, extricated his head from the skirts of hi_reatcoat, which materially impeded the usefulness of his spectacles, the ful_isaster of the case met his view.
  • Old Mr. Wardle without a hat, and his clothes torn in several places, stood b_is side, and the fragments of the chaise lay scattered at their feet. Th_ost–boys, who had succeeded in cutting the traces, were standing, disfigure_ith mud and disordered by hard riding, by the horses’ heads. About a hundre_ards in advance was the other chaise, which had pulled up on hearing th_rash. The postillions, each with a broad grin convulsing his countenance, were viewing the adverse party from their saddles, and Mr. Jingle wa_ontemplating the wreck from the coach window, with evident satisfaction. Th_ay was just breaking, and the whole scene was rendered perfectly visible b_he grey light of the morning.
  • ‘Hollo!’ shouted the shameless Jingle, ‘anybody damaged?—elderly gentlemen—n_ight weights—dangerous work—very.’
  • ‘You’re a rascal,’ roared Wardle.
  • ‘Ha! ha!’ replied Jingle; and then he added, with a knowing wink, and a jer_f the thumb towards the interior of the chaise—‘I say—she’s very well—desire_er compliments—begs you won’t trouble yourself—love to tuppy—won’t you get u_ehind?—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 an_quable current of Mr. Pickwick’s temper. The villainy, however, which coul_irst 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, an_oloured up to the very tips of his spectacles, as he said, slowly an_mphatically—
  • ‘If ever I meet that man again, I’ll—’
  • ‘Yes, yes,’ interrupted Wardle, ‘that’s all very well; but while we stan_alking here, they’ll get their licence, and be married in London.’
  • Mr. Pickwick paused, bottled up his vengeance, and corked it down. ‘How far i_t 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 an_orses, 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 thei_hawls round their necks, and slouching down their hats to escape as much a_ossible from the deluge of rain, which after a slight cessation had agai_egun to pour heavily down.