'Why,' replied Mr. Trotter, 'my master and I, being in the confidence of the two servants, will be secreted in the kitchen at ten o'clock. When the family have retired to rest, we shall come out of the kitchen, and the young lady out of her bedroom. A post-chaise will be waiting, and away we go.'
'Well?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were in waiting in the garden behind, alone — '
'Alone,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why alone?'
'I thought it very natural,' replied Job, 'that the old lady wouldn't like such an unpleasant discovery to be made before more persons than can possibly be helped. The young lady, too, sir — consider her feelings.'
'You are very right,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'The consideration evinces your delicacy of feeling. Go on; you are very right.'
'Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were waiting in the back garden alone, and I was to let you in, at the door which opens into it, from the end of the passage, at exactly half-past eleven o'clock, you would be just in the very moment of time to assist me in frustrating the designs of this bad man, by whom I have been unfortunately ensnared.' Here Mr. Trotter sighed deeply.
'Don't distress yourself on that account,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'if he had one grain of the delicacy of feeling which distinguishes you, humble as your station is, I should have some hopes of him.'
Job Trotter bowed low; and in spite of Mr. Weller's previous remonstrance, the tears again rose to his eyes.
'I never see such a feller,' said Sam, 'Blessed if I don't think he's got a main in his head as is always turned on.'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, with great severity, 'hold your tongue.'
'Wery well, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'I don't like this plan,' said Mr. Pickwick, after deep meditation. 'Why cannot I communicate with the young lady's friends?'
'Because they live one hundred miles from here, sir,' responded Job Trotter.
'That's a clincher,' said Mr. Weller, aside.
'Then this garden,' resumed Mr. Pickwick. 'How am I to get into it?'
'The wall is very low, sir, and your servant will give you a leg up.' 'My servant will give me a leg up,' repeated Mr. Pickwick mechanically. 'You will be sure to be near this door that you speak of?'
'You cannot mistake it, Sir; it's the only one that opens into the garden. Tap at it when you hear the clock strike, and I will open it instantly.'
'I don't like the plan,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but as I see no other, and as the happiness of this young lady's whole life is at stake, I adopt it. I shall be sure to be there.'
Thus, for the second time, did Mr. Pickwick's innate good-feeling involve him in an enterprise from which he would most willingly have stood aloof.
'What is the name of the house?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Westgate House, Sir. You turn a little to the right when you get to the end of the town; it stands by itself, some little distance off the high road, with the name on a brass plate on the gate.'
'I know it,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I observed it once before, when I was in this town. You may depend upon me.'
Mr. Trotter made another bow, and turned to depart, when Mr. Pickwick thrust a guinea into his hand.
'You're a fine fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and I admire your goodness of heart. No thanks. Remember — eleven o'clock.'
'There is no fear of my forgetting it, sir,' replied Job Trotter. With these words he left the room, followed by Sam.
'I say,' said the latter, 'not a bad notion that 'ere crying. I'd cry like a rain-water spout in a shower on such good terms. How do you do it?'
'It comes from the heart, Mr. Walker,' replied Job solemnly. 'Good-morning, sir.'
'You're a soft customer, you are; we've got it all out o' you, anyhow,' thought Mr. Weller, as Job walked away.
We cannot state the precise nature of the thoughts which passed through Mr. Trotter's mind, because we don't know what they were.
The day wore on, evening came, and at a little before ten o'clock Sam Weller reported that Mr. Jingle and Job had gone out together, that their luggage was packed up, and that they had ordered a chaise. The plot was evidently in execution, as Mr. Trotter had foretold.
Half-past ten o'clock arrived, and it was time for Mr. Pickwick to issue forth on his delicate errand. Resisting Sam's tender of his greatcoat, in order that he might have no encumbrance in scaling the wall, he set forth, followed by his attendant.
There was a bright moon, but it was behind the clouds. It was a fine dry night, but it was most uncommonly dark. Paths, hedges, fields, houses, and trees, were enveloped in one deep shade. The atmosphere was hot and sultry, the summer lightning quivered faintly on the verge of the horizon, and was the only sight that varied the dull gloom in which everything was wrapped — sound there was none, except the distant barking of some restless house-dog.
They found the house, read the brass plate, walked round the wall, and stopped at that portion of it which divided them from the bottom of the garden.
'You will return to the inn, Sam, when you have assisted me over,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Wery well, Sir.'
'And you will sit up, till I return.'
'Take hold of my leg; and, when I say "Over," raise me gently.'
'All right, sir.'
Having settled these preliminaries, Mr. Pickwick grasped the top of the wall, and gave the word 'Over,' which was literally obeyed. Whether his body partook in some degree of the elasticity of his mind, or whether Mr. Weller's notions of a gentle push were of a somewhat rougher description than Mr. Pickwick's, the immediate effect of his assistance was to jerk that immortal gentleman completely over the wall on to the bed beneath, where, after crushing three gooseberry-bushes and a rose-tree, he finally alighted at full length.
'You ha'n't hurt yourself, I hope, Sir?' said Sam, in a loud whisper, as soon as he had recovered from the surprise consequent upon the mysterious disappearance of his master.
'I have not hurt MYSELF, Sam, certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick, from the other side of the wall, 'but I rather think that YOU have hurt me.'
'I hope not, Sir,' said Sam.
'Never mind,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising, 'it's nothing but a few scratches. Go away, or we shall be overheard.'
With stealthy steps Sam Weller departed, leaving Mr. Pickwick alone in the garden.
Lights occasionally appeared in the different windows of the house, or glanced from the staircases, as if the inmates were retiring to rest. Not caring to go too near the door, until the appointed time, Mr. Pickwick crouched into an angle of the wall, and awaited its arrival.
It was a situation which might well have depressed the spirits of many a man. Mr. Pickwick, however, felt neither depression nor misgiving. He knew that his purpose was in the main a good one, and he placed implicit reliance on the high-minded Job. It was dull, certainly; not to say dreary; but a contemplative man can always employ himself in meditation. Mr. Pickwick had meditated himself into a doze, when he was roused by the chimes of the neighbouring church ringing out the hour — half-past eleven.
'That's the time,' thought Mr. Pickwick, getting cautiously on his feet. He looked up at the house. The lights had disappeared, and the shutters were closed — all in bed, no doubt. He walked on tiptoe to the door, and gave a gentle tap. Two or three minutes passing without any reply, he gave another tap rather louder, and then another rather louder than that.
At length the sound of feet was audible upon the stairs, and then the light of a candle shone through the keyhole of the door. There was a good deal of unchaining and unbolting, and the door was slowly opened.
Now the door opened outwards; and as the door opened wider and wider, Mr. Pickwick receded behind it, more and more. What was his astonishment when he just peeped out, by way of caution, to see that the person who had opened it was — not Job Trotter, but a servant-girl with a candle in her hand! Mr. Pickwick drew in his head again, with the swiftness displayed by that admirable melodramatic performer, Punch, when he lies in wait for the flat-headed comedian with the tin box of music.
'It must have been the cat, Sarah,' said the girl, addressing herself to some one in the house. 'Puss, puss, puss, — tit, tit, tit.'
But no animal being decoyed by these blandishments, the girl slowly closed the door, and re-fastened it; leaving Mr. Pickwick drawn up straight against the wall.
'This is very curious,' thought Mr. Pickwick. 'They are sitting up beyond their usual hour, I suppose. Extremely unfortunate, that they should have chosen this night, of all others, for such a purpose — exceedingly.' And with these thoughts, Mr. Pickwick cautiously retired to the angle of the wall in which he had been before ensconced; waiting until such time as he might deem it safe to repeat the signal.
He had not been here five minutes, when a vivid flash of lightning was followed by a loud peal of thunder that crashed and rolled away in the distance with a terrific noise — then came another flash of lightning, brighter than the other, and a second peal of thunder louder than the first; and then down came the rain, with a force and fury that swept everything before it.