With these broken words, a young man dressed as a naval officer made his way up to the table, and presented to the astonished Pickwickians the identical form and features of Mr. Alfred Jingle. The offender had barely time to take Mrs. Leo Hunter's proffered hand, when his eyes encountered the indignant orbs of Mr. Pickwick.
'Hollo!' said Jingle. 'Quite forgot — no directions to postillion — give 'em at once — back in a minute.'
'The servant, or Mr. Hunter will do it in a moment, Mr. Fitz-Marshall,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter.
'No, no — I'll do it — shan't be long — back in no time,' replied Jingle. With these words he disappeared among the crowd.
'Will you allow me to ask you, ma'am,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick, rising from his seat, 'who that young man is, and where he resides?'
'He is a gentleman of fortune, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'to whom I very much want to introduce you. The count will be delighted with him.'
'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily. 'His residence — '
'Is at present at the Angel at Bury.'
'At Bury St. Edmunds, not many miles from here. But dear me, Mr. Pickwick, you are not going to leave us; surely Mr. Pickwick you cannot think of going so soon?'
But long before Mrs. Leo Hunter had finished speaking, Mr. Pickwick had plunged through the throng, and reached the garden, whither he was shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Tupman, who had followed his friend closely.
'It's of no use,' said Mr. Tupman. 'He has gone.'
'I know it,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and I will follow him.'
'Follow him! Where?' inquired Mr. Tupman.
'To the Angel at Bury,' replied Mr. Pickwick, speaking very quickly. 'How do we know whom he is deceiving there? He deceived a worthy man once, and we were the innocent cause. He shall not do it again, if I can help it; I'll expose him! Sam! Where's my servant?'
'Here you are, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, emerging from a sequestered spot, where he had been engaged in discussing a bottle of Madeira, which he had abstracted from the breakfast-table an hour or two before. 'Here's your servant, Sir. Proud o' the title, as the living skellinton said, ven they show'd him.'
'Follow me instantly,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Tupman, if I stay at Bury, you can join me there, when I write. Till then, good-bye!'
Remonstrances were useless. Mr. Pickwick was roused, and his mind was made up. Mr. Tupman returned to his companions; and in another hour had drowned all present recollection of Mr. Alfred Jingle, or Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall, in an exhilarating quadrille and a bottle of champagne. By that time, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, perched on the outside of a stage-coach, were every succeeding minute placing a less and less distance between themselves and the good old town of Bury St. Edmunds.