The imperative necessity of ousting his rival by some means or other, flashed quickly upon him, and he immediately resolved to adopt certain proceedings tending to that end and object, without a moment's delay. Fielding tells us that man is fire, and woman tow, and the Prince of Darkness sets a light to 'em. Mr. Jingle knew that young men, to spinster aunts, are as lighted gas to gunpowder, and he determined to essay the effect of an explosion without loss of time.
Full of reflections upon this important decision, he crept from his place of concealment, and, under cover of the shrubs before mentioned, approached the house. Fortune seemed determined to favour his design. Mr. Tupman and the rest of the gentlemen left the garden by the side gate just as he obtained a view of it; and the young ladies, he knew, had walked out alone, soon after breakfast. The coast was clear.
The breakfast-parlour door was partially open. He peeped in. The spinster aunt was knitting. He coughed; she looked up and smiled. Hesitation formed no part of Mr. Alfred Jingle's character. He laid his finger on his lips mysteriously, walked in, and closed the door.
'Miss Wardle,' said Mr. Jingle, with affected earnestness, 'forgive intrusion--short acquaintance--no time for ceremony-- all discovered.'
'Sir!' said the spinster aunt, rather astonished by the unexpected apparition and somewhat doubtful of Mr. Jingle's sanity.
'Hush!' said Mr. Jingle, in a stage-whisper--'Large boy-- dumpling face--round eyes--rascal!' Here he shook his head expressively, and the spinster aunt trembled with agitation.
'I presume you allude to Joseph, Sir?' said the lady, making an effort to appear composed.
'Yes, ma'am--damn that Joe!--treacherous dog, Joe--told the old lady--old lady furious--wild--raving--arbour--Tupman-- kissing and hugging--all that sort of thing--eh, ma'am--eh?'
'Mr. Jingle,' said the spinster aunt, 'if you come here, Sir, to insult me--'
'Not at all--by no means,' replied the unabashed Mr. Jingle-- 'overheard the tale--came to warn you of your danger--tender my services--prevent the hubbub. Never mind--think it an insult--leave the room'--and he turned, as if to carry the threat into execution.
'What SHALL I do!' said the poor spinster, bursting into tears. 'My brother will be furious.'
'Of course he will,' said Mr. Jingle pausing--'outrageous.' 'Oh, Mr. Jingle, what CAN I say!' exclaimed the spinster aunt, in another flood of despair.
'Say he dreamt it,' replied Mr. Jingle coolly.
A ray of comfort darted across the mind of the spinster aunt at this suggestion. Mr. Jingle perceived it, and followed up his advantage.
'Pooh, pooh!--nothing more easy--blackguard boy--lovely woman--fat boy horsewhipped--you believed--end of the matter--all comfortable.'
Whether the probability of escaping from the consequences of this ill-timed discovery was delightful to the spinster's feelings, or whether the hearing herself described as a 'lovely woman' softened the asperity of her grief, we know not. She blushed slightly, and cast a grateful look on Mr. Jingle.
That insinuating gentleman sighed deeply, fixed his eyes on the spinster aunt's face for a couple of minutes, started melodramatically, and suddenly withdrew them.
'You seem unhappy, Mr. Jingle,' said the lady, in a plaintive voice. 'May I show my gratitude for your kind interference, by inquiring into the cause, with a view, if possible, to its removal?'
'Ha!' exclaimed Mr. Jingle, with another start--'removal! remove my unhappiness, and your love bestowed upon a man who is insensible to the blessing--who even now contemplates a design upon the affections of the niece of the creature who--but no; he is my friend; I will not expose his vices. Miss Wardle-- farewell!' At the conclusion of this address, the most consecutive he was ever known to utter, Mr. Jingle applied to his eyes the remnant of a handkerchief before noticed, and turned towards the door.
'Stay, Mr. Jingle!' said the spinster aunt emphatically.