'Oh, my friend!' said poor Mr. Tupman, again grasping the hand of his companion, 'receive my warmest thanks for your disinterested kindness; and forgive me if I have ever, even in thought, done you the injustice of supposing that you could stand in my way. My dear friend, can I ever repay you?'
'Don't talk of it,' replied Mr. Jingle. He stopped short, as if suddenly recollecting something, and said--'By the bye--can't spare ten pounds, can you?--very particular purpose--pay you in three days.'
'I dare say I can,' replied Mr. Tupman, in the fulness of his heart. 'Three days, you say?'
'Only three days--all over then--no more difficulties.' Mr. Tupman counted the money into his companion's hand, and he dropped it piece by piece into his pocket, as they walked towards the house.
'Be careful,' said Mr. Jingle--'not a look.'
'Not a wink,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Not a syllable.'
'Not a whisper.'
'All your attentions to the niece--rather rude, than otherwise, to the aunt--only way of deceiving the old ones.'
'I'll take care,' said Mr. Tupman aloud.
'And I'LL take care,' said Mr. Jingle internally; and they entered the house.
The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and on the three afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth, the host was in high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that there was no ground for the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr. Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had told him that his affair would soon be brought to a crisis. So was Mr. Pickwick, for he was seldom otherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for he had grown jealous of Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had been winning at whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons of sufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated in another chapter.
CHAPTER IX 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 betokened the 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't think I've heard his voice for two hours at least. Emily, my dear, ring the bell.'
The bell was rung, and the fat boy appeared.
'Where's Miss Rachael?' He couldn't say. 'Where's Mr. Jingle, then?' He didn't know. Everybody looked surprised. It was late--past eleven o'clock. Mr. Tupman laughed 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, I dare 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 was supplied 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 of beef, 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 his hold of the carving-knife, which remained inserted in the beef. He looked at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick looked at him.
Heavy footsteps were heard in the passage; the parlour door was suddenly burst open; 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 the devil'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.