'Why did you not communicate this fact to me this morning, Sir?'
'To be sure--to be sure,' said the man with the camp-stool indignantly.
'I entreat you to be quiet, Payne,' said the other. 'May I repeat my question, Sir?'
'Because, Sir,' replied Mr. Winkle, who had had time to deliberate upon his answer, 'because, Sir, you described an intoxicated and ungentlemanly person as wearing a coat which I have the honour, not only to wear but to have invented--the proposed uniform, Sir, of the Pickwick Club in London. The honour of that uniform I feel bound to maintain, and I therefore, without inquiry, accepted the challenge which you offered me.'
'My dear Sir,' said the good-humoured little doctor advancing with extended hand, 'I honour your gallantry. Permit me to say, Sir, that I highly admire your conduct, and extremely regret having caused you the inconvenience of this meeting, to no purpose.'
'I beg you won't mention it, Sir,' said Mr. Winkle.
'I shall feel proud of your acquaintance, Sir,' said the little doctor.
'It will afford me the greatest pleasure to know you, sir,' replied Mr. Winkle. Thereupon the doctor and Mr. Winkle shook hands, and then Mr. Winkle and Lieutenant Tappleton (the doctor's second), and then Mr. Winkle and the man with the camp-stool, and, finally, Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass--the last-named gentleman in an excess of admiration at the noble conduct of his heroic friend.
'I think we may adjourn,' said Lieutenant Tappleton.
'Certainly,' added the doctor.
'Unless,' interposed the man with the camp-stool, 'unless Mr. Winkle feels himself aggrieved by the challenge; in which case, I submit, he has a right to satisfaction.'
Mr. Winkle, with great self-denial, expressed himself quite satisfied already. 'Or possibly,' said the man with the camp-stool, 'the gentleman's second may feel himself affronted with some observations which fell from me at an early period of this meeting; if so, I shall be happy to give him satisfaction immediately.'
Mr. Snodgrass hastily professed himself very much obliged with the handsome offer of the gentleman who had spoken last, which he was only induced to decline by his entire contentment with the whole proceedings. The two seconds adjusted the cases, and the whole party left the ground in a much more lively manner than they had proceeded to it.
'Do you remain long here?' inquired Doctor Slammer of Mr. Winkle, as they walked on most amicably together.
'I think we shall leave here the day after to-morrow,' was the reply.
'I trust I shall have the pleasure of seeing you and your friend at my rooms, and of spending a pleasant evening with you, after this awkward mistake,' said the little doctor; 'are you disengaged this evening?'
'We have some friends here,' replied Mr. Winkle, 'and I should not like to leave them to-night. Perhaps you and your friend will join us at the Bull.'
'With great pleasure,' said the little doctor; 'will ten o'clock be too late to look in for half an hour?'
'Oh dear, no,' said Mr. Winkle. 'I shall be most happy to introduce you to my friends, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman.'
'It will give me great pleasure, I am sure,' replied Doctor Slammer, little suspecting who Mr. Tupman was.
'You will be sure to come?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
By this time they had reached the road. Cordial farewells were exchanged, and the party separated. Doctor Slammer and his friends repaired to the barracks, and Mr. Winkle, accompanied by Mr. Snodgrass, returned to their inn.
CHAPTER III A NEW ACQUAINTANCE--THE STROLLER'S TALE--A DISAGREEABLE INTERRUPTION, AND AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER
Mr. Pickwick had felt some apprehensions in consequence of the unusual absence of his two friends, which their mysterious behaviour during the whole morning had by no means tended to diminish. It was, therefore, with more than ordinary pleasure that he rose to greet them when they again entered; and with more than ordinary interest that he inquired what had occurred to detain them from his society.