He jumped up, and, throwing his arm round the neck of the spinster aunt, imprinted upon her lips numerous kisses, which after a due show of struggling and resistance, she received so passively, that there is no telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed, if the lady had not given a very unaffected start, and exclaimed in an affrighted tone--
'Mr. Tupman, we are observed!--we are discovered!'
Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectly motionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but without the slightest expression on his face that the most expert physiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or any other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr. Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and the longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fat boy's countenance, the more convinced he became that he either did not know, or did not understand, anything that had been going forward. Under this impression, he said with great firmness--
'What do you want here, Sir?'
'Supper's ready, sir,' was the prompt reply.
'Have you just come here, sir?' inquired Mr. Tupman, with a piercing look.
'Just,' replied the fat boy.
Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not a wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.
Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked towards the house; the fat boy followed behind.
'He knows nothing of what has happened,'he whispered.
'Nothing,' said the spinster aunt.
There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed chuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not have been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything but feeding in his whole visage.
'He must have been fast asleep,' whispered Mr. Tupman.
'I have not the least doubt of it,' replied the spinster aunt.
They both laughed heartily.
Mr, Tupman was wrong. The fat boy, for once, had not been fast asleep. He was awake--wide awake--to what had been going forward.
The supper passed off without any attempt at a general conversation. The old lady had gone to bed; Isabella Wardle devoted herself exclusively to Mr. Trundle; the spinster's attentions were reserved for Mr. Tupman; and Emily's thoughts appeared to be engrossed by some distant object--possibly they were with the absent Snodgrass.
Eleven--twelve--one o'clock had struck, and the gentlemen had not arrived. Consternation sat on every face. Could they have been waylaid and robbed? Should they send men and lanterns in every direction by which they could be supposed likely to have travelled home? or should they-- Hark! there they were. What could have made them so late? A strange voice, too! To whom could it belong? They rushed into the kitchen, whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rather more than a glimmering of the real state of the case.
Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hat cocked completely over his left eye, was leaning against the dresser, shaking his head from side to side, and producing a constant succession of the blandest and most benevolent smiles without being moved thereunto by any discernible cause or pretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamed countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentleman muttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle, supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invoking destruction upon the head of any member of the family who should suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; and Mr. Snodgrass had sunk into a chair, with an expression of the most abject and hopeless misery that the human mind can imagine, portrayed in every lineament of his expressive face.
'is anything the matter?' inquired the three ladies.
'Nothing the matter,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'We--we're--all right.--I say, Wardle, we're all right, ain't we?'
'I should think so,' replied the jolly host.--'My dears, here's my friend Mr. Jingle--Mr.