Meanwhile Mr. Pickwick had been wheeled to the pound, and safely deposited therein, fast asleep in the wheel-barrow, to the immeasurable delight and satisfaction not only of all the boys in the village, but three-fourths of the whole population, who had gathered round, in expectation of his waking. If their most intense gratification had been awakened by seeing him wheeled in, how many hundredfold was their joy increased when, after a few indistinct cries of 'Sam!' he sat up in the barrow, and gazed with indescribable astonishment on the faces before him.
A general shout was of course the signal of his having woke up; and his involuntary inquiry of 'What's the matter?' occasioned another, louder than the first, if possible.
'Here's a game!' roared the populace.
'Where am I?' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'In the pound,' replied the mob.
'How came I here? What was I doing? Where was I brought from?' 'Boldwig! Captain Boldwig!' was the only reply.
'Let me out,' cried Mr. Pickwick. 'Where's my servant? Where are my friends?'
'You ain't got no friends. Hurrah!' Then there came a turnip, then a potato, and then an egg; with a few other little tokens of the playful disposition of the many-headed.
How long this scene might have lasted, or how much Mr. Pickwick might have suffered, no one can tell, had not a carriage, which was driving swiftly by, suddenly pulled up, from whence there descended old Wardle and Sam Weller, the former of whom, in far less time than it takes to write it, if not to read it, had made his way to Mr. Pickwick's side, and placed him in the vehicle, just as the latter had concluded the third and last round of a single combat with the town-beadle.
'Run to the justice's!' cried a dozen voices.
'Ah, run avay,' said Mr. Weller, jumping up on the box. 'Give my compliments — Mr. Veller's compliments — to the justice, and tell him I've spiled his beadle, and that, if he'll swear in a new 'un, I'll come back again to-morrow and spile him. Drive on, old feller.'
'I'll give directions for the commencement of an action for false imprisonment against this Captain Boldwig, directly I get to London,' said Mr. Pickwick, as soon as the carriage turned out of the town.
'We were trespassing, it seems,' said Wardle.
'I don't care,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I'll bring the action.'
'No, you won't,' said Wardle.
'I will, by — ' But as there was a humorous expression in Wardle's face, Mr. Pickwick checked himself, and said, 'Why not?'
'Because,' said old Wardle, half-bursting with laughter, 'because they might turn on some of us, and say we had taken too much cold punch.'
Do what he would, a smile would come into Mr. Pickwick's face; the smile extended into a laugh; the laugh into a roar; the roar became general. So, to keep up their good-humour, they stopped at the first roadside tavern they came to, and ordered a glass of brandy-and-water all round, with a magnum of extra strength for Mr. Samuel Weller.