"I paid his expenses!" said Mr. Tupman, jumping up frantically. "He's got ten pounds of mine!--stop him!-- he's swindled me!--I won't bear it!--I'll have justice, Pickwick!--I won't stand it!" and with sundry incoherent exclamations of the like nature, the unhappy gentleman spun round and round the apartment, in a transport of frenzy.
"Lord preserve us!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, eyeing the extraordinary gestures of his friend with terrified surprise. "He's gone mad! What shall we do!"
"Do!" said the stout old host, who regarded only the last words of the sentence. "Put the horse in the gig! I'll get a chaise at the Lion, and follow 'em instantly. Where"--he exclaimed, as the man ran out to execute the commission--Where's that villain, Joe?"
"Here I am; but I han't a willin," replied a voice. It was the fat boy's.
"Let me get at him, Pickwick," cried Wardle, as he rushed at the ill-starred youth. "He was bribed by that scoundrel, Jingle, to put me on a wrong scent, by telling a cock-and-a-bull story of my sister and your friend Tupman!" (Here Mr. Tupman sunk into a chair.) "Let me get at him!"
"Don't let him!" screamed all the women, above whose exclamations the blubbering of the fat boy was distinctly audible.
"I won't be held!" cried the old man. "Mr. Winkle, take your hands off. Mr. Pickwick, let me go, sir!"
It was a beautiful sight, in that moment of turmoil and confusion, to behold the placid and philosophical expression of Mr. Pickwick's face, albeit somewhat flushed with exertion, as he stood with his arms firmly clasped round the extensive waist of their corpulent host, thus restraining the impetuosity of his passion, while the fat boy was scratched, and pulled, and pushed from the room by all the females congregated therein. He had no sooner released his hold, than the man entered to announce that the gig was ready.
"Don't let him go alone!" screamed the females. "He'll kill somebody!"
"I'll go with him," said Mr. Pickwick.
"You're a good fellow, Pickwick," said the host, grasping his hand. "Emma, give Mr. Pickwick a shawl to tie round his neck--make haste. Look after your grandmother, girls; she has fainted away. Now then, are you ready?"
Mr. Pickwick's mouth and chin having been hastily enveloped in a large shawl: his hat having been put on his head, and his great coat thrown over his arm, he replied in the affirmative.
They jumped into the gig. "Give her her head, Tom," cried the host; and away they went, down the narrow lanes: jolting in and out of the cart-ruts, and bumping up against the hedges on either side, as if they would go to pieces every moment.
"How much are they a-head?" shouted Wardle, as they drove up to the door of the Blue Lion, round which a little crowd had collected, late as it was.
"Not above three-quarters of an hour," was everybody's reply.
"Chaise and four directly!--out with 'em! Put up the gig afterwards."
"Now, boys!" cried the landlord--"chaise and four out--make haste--look alive there!"
Away ran the hostlers, and the boys. The lanterns glimmered, as the men ran to and fro; the horses' hoofs clattered on the uneven paving of the yard; the chaise rumbled as it was drawn out of the coach-house; and all was noise and bustle.
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