Tupman, on whom the description of her charms had produced a powerful impression.
'Dead, sir--dead,' said the stranger, applying to his right eye the brief remnant of a very old cambric handkerchief. 'Never recovered the stomach pump--undermined constitution--fell a victim.'
'And her father?' inquired the poetic Snodgrass.
'Remorse and misery,' replied the stranger. 'Sudden disappearance--talk of the whole city--search made everywhere without success--public fountain in the great square suddenly ceased playing--weeks elapsed--still a stoppage--workmen employed to clean it--water drawn off--father-in-law discovered sticking head first in the main pipe, with a full confession in his right boot--took him out, and the fountain played away again, as well as ever.'
'Will you allow me to note that little romance down, Sir?' said Mr. Snodgrass, deeply affected.
'Certainly, Sir, certainly--fifty more if you like to hear 'em-- strange life mine--rather curious history--not extraordinary, but singular.'
In this strain, with an occasional glass of ale, by way of parenthesis, when the coach changed horses, did the stranger proceed, until they reached Rochester bridge, by which time the note-books, both of Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Snodgrass, were completely filled with selections from his adventures.
'Magnificent ruin!' said Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, with all the poetic fervour that distinguished him, when they came in sight of the fine old castle.
'What a sight for an antiquarian!' were the very words which fell from Mr. Pickwick's mouth, as he applied his telescope to his eye.
'Ah! fine place,' said the stranger, 'glorious pile--frowning walls--tottering arches--dark nooks--crumbling staircases--old cathedral too--earthy smell--pilgrims' feet wore away the old steps--little Saxon doors--confessionals like money-takers' boxes at theatres--queer customers those monks--popes, and lord treasurers, and all sorts of old fellows, with great red faces, and broken noses, turning up every day--buff jerkins too-- match-locks--sarcophagus--fine place--old legends too--strange stories: capital;' and the stranger continued to soliloquise until they reached the Bull Inn, in the High Street, where the coach stopped.
'Do you remain here, Sir?' inquired Mr. Nathaniel Winkle.
'Here--not I--but you'd better--good house--nice beds-- Wright's next house, dear--very dear--half-a-crown in the bill if you look at the waiter--charge you more if you dine at a friend's than they would if you dined in the coffee-room--rum fellows--very.'
Mr. Winkle turned to Mr. Pickwick, and murmured a few words; a whisper passed from Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Snodgrass, from Mr. Snodgrass to Mr. Tupman, and nods of assent were exchanged. Mr. Pickwick addressed the stranger.
'You rendered us a very important service this morning, sir,' said he, 'will you allow us to offer a slight mark of our gratitude by begging the favour of your company at dinner?'
'Great pleasure--not presume to dictate, but broiled fowl and mushrooms--capital thing! What time?'
'Let me see,' replied Mr. Pickwick, referring to his watch, 'it is now nearly three. Shall we say five?'
'Suit me excellently,' said the stranger, 'five precisely--till then--care of yourselves;' and lifting the pinched-up hat a few inches from his head, and carelessly replacing it very much on one side, the stranger, with half the brown paper parcel sticking out of his pocket, walked briskly up the yard, and turned into the High Street.
'Evidently a traveller in many countries, and a close observer of men and things,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I should like to see his poem,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'I should like to have seen that dog,' said Mr. Winkle.
Mr. Tupman said nothing; but he thought of Donna Christina, the stomach pump, and the fountain; and his eyes filled with tears.
A private sitting-room having been engaged, bedrooms inspected, and dinner ordered, the party walked out to view the city and adjoining neighbourhood.
We do not find, from a careful perusal of Mr.