'Only three days, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why, what have you been doing these three months?'
'Ah, to be sure!' interposed Perker; 'come, account for this idleness. You see Mr. Pickwick's only astonishment is, that it wasn't all over, months ago.'
'Why the fact is,' replied Mr. Winkle, looking at his blushing young wife, 'that I could not persuade Bella to run away, for a long time. And when I had persuaded her, it was a long time more before we could find an opportunity. Mary had to give a month's warning, too, before she could leave her place next door, and we couldn't possibly have done it without her assistance.' 'Upon my word,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, who by this time had resumed his spectacles, and was looking from Arabella to Winkle, and from Winkle to Arabella, with as much delight depicted in his countenance as warmheartedness and kindly feeling can communicate to the human face — 'upon my word! you seem to have been very systematic in your proceedings. And is your brother acquainted with all this, my dear?'
'Oh, no, no,' replied Arabella, changing colour. 'Dear Mr. Pickwick, he must only know it from you — from your lips alone. He is so violent, so prejudiced, and has been so — so anxious in behalf of his friend, Mr. Sawyer,' added Arabella, looking down, 'that I fear the consequences dreadfully.'
'Ah, to be sure,' said Perker gravely. 'You must take this matter in hand for them, my dear sir. These young men will respect you, when they would listen to nobody else. You must prevent mischief, my dear Sir. Hot blood, hot blood.' And the little man took a warning pinch, and shook his head doubtfully.
'You forget, my love,' said Mr. Pickwick gently, 'you forget that I am a prisoner.'
'No, indeed I do not, my dear Sir,' replied Arabella. 'I never have forgotten it. I have never ceased to think how great your sufferings must have been in this shocking place. But I hoped that what no consideration for yourself would induce you to do, a regard to our happiness might. If my brother hears of this, first, from you, I feel certain we shall be reconciled. He is my only relation in the world, Mr. Pickwick, and unless you plead for me, I fear I have lost even him. I have done wrong, very, very wrong, I know.'Here poor Arabella hid her face in her handkerchief, and wept bitterly.
Mr. Pickwick's nature was a good deal worked upon, by these same tears; but when Mrs. Winkle, drying her eyes, took to coaxing and entreating in the sweetest tones of a very sweet voice, he became particularly restless, and evidently undecided how to act, as was evinced by sundry nervous rubbings of his spectacle-glasses, nose, tights, head, and gaiters.
Taking advantage of these symptoms of indecision, Mr. Perker (to whom, it appeared, the young couple had driven straight that morning) urged with legal point and shrewdness that Mr. Winkle, senior, was still unacquainted with the important rise in life's flight of steps which his son had taken; that the future expectations of the said son depended entirely upon the said Winkle, senior, continuing to regard him with undiminished feelings of affection and attachment, which it was very unlikely he would, if this great event were long kept a secret from him; that Mr. Pickwick, repairing to Bristol to seek Mr. Allen, might, with equal reason, repair to Birmingham to seek Mr. Winkle, senior; lastly, that Mr. Winkle, senior, had good right and title to consider Mr. Pickwick as in some degree the guardian and adviser of his son, and that it consequently behoved that gentleman, and was indeed due to his personal character, to acquaint the aforesaid Winkle, senior, personally, and by word of mouth, with the whole circumstances of the case, and with the share he had taken in the transaction.
Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass arrived, most opportunely, in this stage of the pleadings, and as it was necessary to explain to them all that had occurred, together with the various reasons pro and con, the whole of the arguments were gone over again, after which everybody urged every argument in his own way, and at his own length. And, at last, Mr. Pickwick, fairly argued and remonstrated out of all his resolutions, and being in imminent danger of being argued and remonstrated out of his wits, caught Arabella in his arms, and declaring that she was a very amiable creature, and that he didn't know how it was, but he had always been very fond of her from the first, said he could never find it in his heart to stand in the way of young people's happiness, and they might do with him as they pleased.
Mr. Weller's first act, on hearing this concession, was to despatch Job Trotter to the illustrious Mr. Pell, with an authority to deliver to the bearer the formal discharge which his prudent parent had had the foresight to leave in the hands of that learned gentleman, in case it should be, at any time, required on an emergency; his next proceeding was, to invest his whole stock of ready-money in the purchase of five-and-twenty gallons of mild porter, which he himself dispensed on the racket-ground to everybody who would partake of it; this done, he hurra'd in divers parts of the building until he lost his voice, and then quietly relapsed into his usual collected and philosophical condition.
At three o'clock that afternoon, Mr. Pickwick took a last look at his little room, and made his way, as well as he could, through the throng of debtors who pressed eagerly forward to shake him by the hand, until he reached the lodge steps. He turned here, to look about him, and his eye lightened as he did so. In all the crowd of wan, emaciated faces, he saw not one which was not happier for his sympathy and charity.
'Perker,' said Mr. Pickwick, beckoning one young man towards him, 'this is Mr. Jingle, whom I spoke to you about.'
'Very good, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, looking hard at Jingle. 'You will see me again, young man, to-morrow. I hope you may live to remember and feel deeply, what I shall have to communicate, Sir.'
Jingle bowed respectfully, trembled very much as he took Mr. Pickwick's proffered hand, and withdrew.
'Job you know, I think?' said Mr. Pickwick, presenting that gentleman.
'I know the rascal,' replied Perker good-humouredly. 'See after your friend, and be in the way to-morrow at one. Do you hear? Now, is there anything more?'
'Nothing,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'You have delivered the little parcel I gave you for your old landlord, Sam?'
'I have, Sir,' replied Sam. 'He bust out a-cryin', Sir, and said you wos wery gen'rous and thoughtful, and he only wished you could have him innockilated for a gallopin' consumption, for his old friend as had lived here so long wos dead, and he'd noweres to look for another.' 'Poor fellow, poor fellow!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'God bless you, my friends!'
As Mr. Pickwick uttered this adieu, the crowd raised a loud shout. Many among them were pressing forward to shake him by the hand again, when he drew his arm through Perker's, and hurried from the prison, far more sad and melancholy, for the moment, than when he had first entered it. Alas! how many sad and unhappy beings had he left behind!
A happy evening was that for at least one party in the George and Vulture; and light and cheerful were two of the hearts that emerged from its hospitable door next morning. The owners thereof were Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, the former of whom was speedily deposited inside a comfortable post-coach, with a little dickey behind, in which the latter mounted with great agility.
'Sir,' called out Mr. Weller to his master.
'Well, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, thrusting his head out of the window.
'I wish them horses had been three months and better in the Fleet, Sir.'
'Why, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, Sir,' exclaimed Mr. Weller, rubbing his hands, 'how they would go if they had been!'