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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 8

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 8


The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so many
of the gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evinced
in his behalf, were all favourable to the growth and development
of those softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in the
bosom of Mr. Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined to
centre in one lovely object. The young ladies were pretty,
their manners winning, their dispositions unexceptionable; but
there was a dignity in the air, a touch-me-not-ishness in the
walk, a majesty in the eye, of the spinster aunt, to which, at their
time of life, they could lay no claim, which distinguished her
from any female on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed. That there
was something kindred in their nature, something congenial in
their souls, something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms,
was evident. Her name was the first that rose to Mr. Tupman's
lips as he lay wounded on the grass; and her hysteric laughter
was the first sound that fell upon his ear when he was supported
to the house. But had her agitation arisen from an amiable and
feminine sensibility which would have been equally irrepressible
in any case; or had it been called forth by a more ardent and
passionate feeling, which he, of all men living, could alone
awaken? These were the doubts which racked his brain as he lay
extended on the sofa; these were the doubts which he determined
should be at once and for ever resolved.

it was evening. Isabella and Emily had strolled out with
Mr. Trundle; the deaf old lady had fallen asleep in her chair; the
snoring of the fat boy, penetrated in a low and monotonous
sound from the distant kitchen; the buxom servants were
lounging at the side door, enjoying the pleasantness of the hour,
and the delights of a flirtation, on first principles, with certain
unwieldy animals attached to the farm; and there sat the interesting
pair, uncared for by all, caring for none, and dreaming only
of themselves; there they sat, in short, like a pair of carefully-
folded kid gloves--bound up in each other.

'I have forgotten my flowers,' said the spinster aunt.

'Water them now,' said Mr. Tupman, in accents of persuasion.

'You will take cold in the evening air,' urged the spinster aunt

'No, no,' said Mr. Tupman, rising; 'it will do me good. Let me
accompany you.'

The lady paused to adjust the sling in which the left arm of the
youth was placed, and taking his right arm led him to the garden.

There was a bower at the farther end, with honeysuckle,
jessamine, and creeping plants--one of those sweet retreats
which humane men erect for the accommodation of spiders.

The spinster aunt took up a large watering-pot which lay in
one corner, and was about to leave the arbour. Mr. Tupman
detained her, and drew her to a seat beside him.

'Miss Wardle!' said he.
The spinster aunt trembled, till some pebbles which had
accidentally found their way into the large watering-pot shook
like an infant's rattle.

'Miss Wardle,' said Mr. Tupman, 'you are an angel.'

'Mr. Tupman!' exclaimed Rachael, blushing as red as the
watering-pot itself.

'Nay,' said the eloquent Pickwickian--'I know it but too well.'

'All women are angels, they say,' murmured the lady playfully.

'Then what can you be; or to what, without presumption, can
I compare you?' replied Mr. Tupman. 'Where was the woman
ever seen who resembled you? Where else could I hope to find so
rare a combination of excellence and beauty? Where else could
I seek to-- Oh!' Here Mr. Tupman paused, and pressed the
hand which clasped the handle of the happy watering-pot.

The lady turned aside her head. 'Men are such deceivers,' she
softly whispered.

'They are, they are,' ejaculated Mr. Tupman; 'but not all men.
There lives at least one being who can never change--one being
who would be content to devote his whole existence to your
happiness--who lives but in your eyes--who breathes but in your
smiles--who bears the heavy burden of life itself only for you.'

'Could such an individual be found--' said the lady.

'But he CAN be found,' said the ardent Mr. Tupman, interposing.
'He IS found. He is here, Miss Wardle.' And ere the lady
was aware of his intention, Mr. Tupman had sunk upon his knees
at her feet.

'Mr. Tupman, rise,' said Rachael.

'Never!' was the valorous reply. 'Oh, Rachael!' He seized her
passive hand, and the watering-pot fell to the ground as he
pressed it to his lips.--'Oh, Rachael! say you love me.'

'Mr. Tupman,' said the spinster aunt, with averted head, 'I
can hardly speak the words; but--but--you are not wholly
indifferent to me.'

Mr. Tupman no sooner heard this avowal, than he proceeded
to do what his enthusiastic emotions prompted, and what, for
aught we know (for we are but little acquainted with such
matters), people so circumstanced always do. He jumped up, and,
throwing his arm round the neck of the spinster aunt, imprinted
upon her lips numerous kisses, which after a due show of
struggling and resistance, she received so passively, that there is
no telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed, if
the lady had not given a very unaffected start, and exclaimed in
an affrighted tone--

'Mr. Tupman, we are observed!--we are discovered!'

Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectly
motionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but
without the slightest expression on his face that the most expert
physiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or
any other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr.
Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and
the longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fat
boy's countenance, the more convinced he became that he either
did not know, or did not understand, anything that had been
going forward. Under this impression, he said with great firmness--

'What do you want here, Sir?'

'Supper's ready, sir,' was the prompt reply.

'Have you just come here, sir?' inquired Mr. Tupman, with a
piercing look.

'Just,' replied the fat boy.

Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not
a wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.

Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked
towards the house; the fat boy followed behind.

'He knows nothing of what has happened,'he whispered.

'Nothing,' said the spinster aunt.

There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed
chuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not
have been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything
but feeding in his whole visage.

'He must have been fast asleep,' whispered Mr. Tupman.

'I have not the least doubt of it,' replied the spinster aunt.

They both laughed heartily.

Mr, Tupman was wrong. The fat boy, for once, had not been
fast asleep. He was awake--wide awake--to what had been going forward.

The supper passed off without any attempt at a general
conversation. The old lady had gone to bed; Isabella Wardle
devoted herself exclusively to Mr. Trundle; the spinster's attentions
were reserved for Mr. Tupman; and Emily's thoughts
appeared to be engrossed by some distant object--possibly they
were with the absent Snodgrass.

Eleven--twelve--one o'clock had struck, and the gentlemen
had not arrived. Consternation sat on every face. Could they
have been waylaid and robbed? Should they send men and
lanterns in every direction by which they could be supposed
likely to have travelled home? or should they-- Hark! there
they were. What could have made them so late? A strange voice,
too! To whom could it belong? They rushed into the kitchen,
whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rather
more than a glimmering of the real state of the case.

Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hat
cocked completely over his left eye, was leaning against the
dresser, shaking his head from side to side, and producing a
constant succession of the blandest and most benevolent smiles
without being moved thereunto by any discernible cause or
pretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamed
countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentleman
muttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle,
supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invoking
destruction upon the head of any member of the family who
should suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; and
Mr. Snodgrass had sunk into a chair, with an expression of the
most abject and hopeless misery that the human mind can
imagine, portrayed in every lineament of his expressive face.

'is anything the matter?' inquired the three ladies.

'Nothing the matter,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'We--we're--all
right.--I say, Wardle, we're all right, ain't we?'

'I should think so,' replied the jolly host.--'My dears, here's my
friend Mr. Jingle--Mr. Pickwick's friend, Mr. Jingle, come 'pon
--little visit.'

'Is anything the matter with Mr. Snodgrass, Sir?' inquired
Emily, with great anxiety.

'Nothing the matter, ma'am,' replied the stranger. 'Cricket
dinner--glorious party--capital songs--old port--claret--good
--very good--wine, ma'am--wine.'

'It wasn't the wine,' murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken
voice. 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is the
wine, in these cases.)

'Hadn't they better go to bed, ma'am?' inquired Emma. 'Two
of the boys will carry the gentlemen upstairs.'

'I won't go to bed,' said Mr. Winkle firmly.

'No living boy shall carry me,' said Mr. Pickwick stoutly; and
he went on smiling as before.
'Hurrah!' gasped Mr. Winkle faintly.

'Hurrah!' echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat and dashing
it on the floor, and insanely casting his spectacles into the middle
of the kitchen. At this humorous feat he laughed outright.

'Let's--have--'nother--bottle,'cried Mr. Winkle, commencing
in a very loud key, and ending in a very faint one. His head
dropped upon his breast; and, muttering his invincible determination
not to go to his bed, and a sanguinary regret that he had
not 'done for old Tupman' in the morning, he fell fast asleep; in
which condition he was borne to his apartment by two young
giants under the personal superintendence of the fat boy, to
whose protecting care Mr. Snodgrass shortly afterwards confided
his own person, Mr. Pickwick accepted the proffered arm of
Mr. Tupman and quietly disappeared, smiling more than ever;
and Mr. Wardle, after taking as affectionate a leave of the whole
family as if he were ordered for immediate execution, consigned
to Mr. Trundle the honour of conveying him upstairs, and
retired, with a very futile attempt to look impressively solemn
and dignified.
'What a shocking scene!' said the spinster aunt.

'Dis-gusting!' ejaculated both the young ladies.

'Dreadful--dreadful!' said Jingle, looking very grave: he was
about a bottle and a half ahead of any of his companions.
'Horrid spectacle--very!'

'What a nice man!' whispered the spinster aunt to Mr. Tupman.

'Good-looking, too!' whispered Emily Wardle.

'Oh, decidedly,' observed the spinster aunt.

Mr. Tupman thought of the widow at Rochester, and his mind
was troubled. The succeeding half-hour's conversation was not
of a nature to calm his perturbed spirit. The new visitor was very
talkative, and the number of his anecdotes was only to be
exceeded by the extent of his politeness. Mr. Tupman felt that as
Jingle's popularity increased, he (Tupman) retired further into the
shade. His laughter was forced--his merriment feigned; and
when at last he laid his aching temples between the sheets, he
thought, with horrid delight, on the satisfaction it would afford
him to have Jingle's head at that moment between the feather bed
and the mattress.

The indefatigable stranger rose betimes next morning, and,
although his companions remained in bed overpowered with the
dissipation of the previous night, exerted himself most successfully
to promote the hilarity of the breakfast-table. So successful
were his efforts, that even the deaf old lady insisted on having one
or two of his best jokes retailed through the trumpet; and even
she condescended to observe to the spinster aunt, that 'He'
(meaning Jingle) 'was an impudent young fellow:' a sentiment in
which all her relations then and there present thoroughly

It was the old lady's habit on the fine summer mornings to
repair to the arbour in which Mr. Tupman had already signalised
himself, in form and manner following: first, the fat boy fetched
from a peg behind the old lady's bedroom door, a close black
satin bonnet, a warm cotton shawl, and a thick stick with a
capacious handle; and the old lady, having put on the bonnet and
shawl at her leisure, would lean one hand on the stick and the
other on the fat boy's shoulder, and walk leisurely to the arbour,
where the fat boy would leave her to enjoy the fresh air for the
space of half an hour; at the expiration of which time he would
return and reconduct her to the house.

The old lady was very precise and very particular; and as this
ceremony had been observed for three successive summers
without the slightest deviation from the accustomed form,
she was not a little surprised on this particular morning to see
the fat boy, instead of leaving the arbour, walk a few paces out
of it, look carefully round him in every direction, and return
towards her with great stealth and an air of the most profound mystery.

The old lady was timorous--most old ladies are--and her first
impression was that the bloated lad was about to do her some
grievous bodily harm with the view of possessing himself of her
loose coin. She would have cried for assistance, but age and
infirmity had long ago deprived her of the power of screaming;
she, therefore, watched his motions with feelings of intense horror
which were in no degree diminished by his coming close up to her,
and shouting in her ear in an agitated, and as it seemed to her, a
threatening tone--


Now it so happened that Mr. Jingle was walking in the garden
close to the arbour at that moment. He too heard the shouts of
'Missus,' and stopped to hear more. There were three reasons for
his doing so. In the first place, he was idle and curious; secondly,
he was by no means scrupulous; thirdly, and lastly, he was
concealed from view by some flowering shrubs. So there he
stood, and there he listened.

'Missus!' shouted the fat boy.

'Well, Joe,' said the trembling old lady. 'I'm sure I have been
a good mistress to you, Joe. You have invariably been treated
very kindly. You have never had too much to do; and you have
always had enough to eat.'

This last was an appeal to the fat boy's most sensitive feelings.
He seemed touched, as he replied emphatically--
'I knows I has.'

'Then what can you want to do now?' said the old lady,
gaining courage.

'I wants to make your flesh creep,' replied the boy.

This sounded like a very bloodthirsty mode of showing one's
gratitude; and as the old lady did not precisely understand the
process by which such a result was to be attained, all her former
horrors returned.

'What do you think I see in this very arbour last night?'
inquired the boy.

'Bless us! What?' exclaimed the old lady, alarmed at the
solemn manner of the corpulent youth.

'The strange gentleman--him as had his arm hurt--a-kissin'
and huggin'--'

'Who, Joe? None of the servants, I hope.'
'Worser than that,' roared the fat boy, in the old lady's ear.

'Not one of my grandda'aters?'

'Worser than that.'

'Worse than that, Joe!' said the old lady, who had thought this
the extreme limit of human atrocity. 'Who was it, Joe? I insist
upon knowing.'

The fat boy looked cautiously round, and having concluded
his survey, shouted in the old lady's ear--

'Miss Rachael.'

'What!' said the old lady, in a shrill tone. 'Speak louder.'

'Miss Rachael,' roared the fat boy.

'My da'ater!'

The train of nods which the fat boy gave by way of assent,
communicated a blanc-mange like motion to his fat cheeks.

'And she suffered him!' exclaimed the old lady.
A grin stole over the fat boy's features as he said--

'I see her a-kissin' of him agin.'

If Mr. Jingle, from his place of concealment, could have
beheld the expression which the old lady's face assumed at this
communication, the probability is that a sudden burst of
laughter would have betrayed his close vicinity to the summer-
house. He listened attentively. Fragments of angry sentences such
as, 'Without my permission!'--'At her time of life'--'Miserable
old 'ooman like me'--'Might have waited till I was dead,' and so
forth, reached his ears; and then he heard the heels of the fat
boy's boots crunching the gravel, as he retired and left the old
lady alone.

It was a remarkable coincidence perhaps, but it was nevertheless
a fact, that Mr. Jingle within five minutes of his arrival at Manor
Farm on the preceding night, had inwardly resolved to lay siege
to the heart of the spinster aunt, without delay. He had observation
enough to see, that his off-hand manner was by no means
disagreeable to the fair object of his attack; and he had more
than a strong suspicion that she possessed that most desirable of
all requisites, a small independence. The imperative necessity of
ousting his rival by some means or other, flashed quickly upon
him, and he immediately resolved to adopt certain proceedings
tending to that end and object, without a moment's delay.
Fielding tells us that man is fire, and woman tow, and the Prince
of Darkness sets a light to 'em. Mr. Jingle knew that young men,
to spinster aunts, are as lighted gas to gunpowder, and he
determined to essay the effect of an explosion without loss of time.

Full of reflections upon this important decision, he crept from
his place of concealment, and, under cover of the shrubs before
mentioned, approached the house. Fortune seemed determined to
favour his design. Mr. Tupman and the rest of the gentlemen left
the garden by the side gate just as he obtained a view of it; and
the young ladies, he knew, had walked out alone, soon after
breakfast. The coast was clear.

The breakfast-parlour door was partially open. He peeped in.
The spinster aunt was knitting. He coughed; she looked up and
smiled. Hesitation formed no part of Mr. Alfred Jingle's
character. He laid his finger on his lips mysteriously, walked in,
and closed the door.

'Miss Wardle,' said Mr. Jingle, with affected earnestness,
'forgive intrusion--short acquaintance--no time for ceremony--
all discovered.'

'Sir!' said the spinster aunt, rather astonished by the unexpected
apparition and somewhat doubtful of Mr. Jingle's sanity.

'Hush!' said Mr. Jingle, in a stage-whisper--'Large boy--
dumpling face--round eyes--rascal!' Here he shook his head
expressively, and the spinster aunt trembled with agitation.

'I presume you allude to Joseph, Sir?' said the lady, making an
effort to appear composed.

'Yes, ma'am--damn that Joe!--treacherous dog, Joe--told the
old lady--old lady furious--wild--raving--arbour--Tupman--
kissing and hugging--all that sort of thing--eh, ma'am--eh?'

'Mr. Jingle,' said the spinster aunt, 'if you come here, Sir, to
insult me--'

'Not at all--by no means,' replied the unabashed Mr. Jingle--
'overheard the tale--came to warn you of your danger--tender
my services--prevent the hubbub. Never mind--think it an
insult--leave the room'--and he turned, as if to carry the threat
into execution.

'What SHALL I do!' said the poor spinster, bursting into tears.
'My brother will be furious.'

'Of course he will,' said Mr. Jingle pausing--'outrageous.'
'Oh, Mr. Jingle, what CAN I say!' exclaimed the spinster aunt, in
another flood of despair.

'Say he dreamt it,' replied Mr. Jingle coolly.

A ray of comfort darted across the mind of the spinster aunt at
this suggestion. Mr. Jingle perceived it, and followed up his advantage.

'Pooh, pooh!--nothing more easy--blackguard boy--lovely
woman--fat boy horsewhipped--you believed--end of the
matter--all comfortable.'

Whether the probability of escaping from the consequences of
this ill-timed discovery was delightful to the spinster's feelings, or
whether the hearing herself described as a 'lovely woman'
softened the asperity of her grief, we know not. She blushed
slightly, and cast a grateful look on Mr. Jingle.

That insinuating gentleman sighed deeply, fixed his eyes on the
spinster aunt's face for a couple of minutes, started melodramatically,
and suddenly withdrew them.

'You seem unhappy, Mr. Jingle,' said the lady, in a plaintive
voice. 'May I show my gratitude for your kind interference,
by inquiring into the cause, with a view, if possible, to its removal?'

'Ha!' exclaimed Mr. Jingle, with another start--'removal!
remove my unhappiness, and your love bestowed upon a man
who is insensible to the blessing--who even now contemplates a
design upon the affections of the niece of the creature who--but
no; he is my friend; I will not expose his vices. Miss Wardle--
farewell!' At the conclusion of this address, the most consecutive
he was ever known to utter, Mr. Jingle applied to his eyes the
remnant of a handkerchief before noticed, and turned towards
the door.

'Stay, Mr. Jingle!' said the spinster aunt emphatically. 'You
have made an allusion to Mr. Tupman--explain it.'

'Never!' exclaimed Jingle, with a professional (i.e., theatrical)
air. 'Never!' and, by way of showing that he had no desire to be
questioned further, he drew a chair close to that of the spinster
aunt and sat down.

'Mr. Jingle,' said the aunt, 'I entreat--I implore you, if there
is any dreadful mystery connected with Mr. Tupman, reveal it.'

'Can I,' said Mr. Jingle, fixing his eyes on the aunt's face--
'can I see--lovely creature--sacrificed at the shrine--
heartless avarice!' He appeared to be struggling with various
conflicting emotions for a few seconds, and then said in a low voice--

'Tupman only wants your money.'

'The wretch!' exclaimed the spinster, with energetic indignation.
(Mr. Jingle's doubts were resolved. She HAD money.)

'More than that,' said Jingle--'loves another.'

'Another!' ejaculated the spinster. 'Who?'
'Short girl--black eyes--niece Emily.'

There was a pause.

Now, if there was one individual in the whole world, of whom
the spinster aunt entertained a mortal and deep-rooted jealousy,
it was this identical niece. The colour rushed over her face and
neck, and she tossed her head in silence with an air of ineffable
contempt. At last, biting her thin lips, and bridling up, she said--

'It can't be. I won't believe it.'

'Watch 'em,' said Jingle.

'I will,' said the aunt.

'Watch his looks.'

'I will.'

'His whispers.'

'I will.'

'He'll sit next her at table.'

'Let him.'

'He'll flatter her.'

'Let him.'

'He'll pay her every possible attention.'

'Let him.'

'And he'll cut you.'

'Cut ME!' screamed the spinster aunt. 'HE cut ME; will he!' and
she trembled with rage and disappointment.

'You will convince yourself?' said Jingle.

'I will.'

'You'll show your spirit?'

'I will.'
'You'll not have him afterwards?'


'You'll take somebody else?'

'You shall.'

Mr. Jingle fell on his knees, remained thereupon for five
minutes thereafter; and rose the accepted lover of the spinster
aunt--conditionally upon Mr. Tupman's perjury being made
clear and manifest.

The burden of proof lay with Mr. Alfred Jingle; and he
produced his evidence that very day at dinner. The spinster aunt
could hardly believe her eyes. Mr. Tracy Tupman was established
at Emily's side, ogling, whispering, and smiling, in opposition to
Mr. Snodgrass. Not a word, not a look, not a glance, did he
bestow upon his heart's pride of the evening before.

'Damn that boy!' thought old Mr. Wardle to himself.--He had
heard the story from his mother. 'Damn that boy! He must have
been asleep. It's all imagination.'

'Traitor!' thought the spinster aunt. 'Dear Mr. Jingle was not
deceiving me. Ugh! how I hate the wretch!'

The following conversation may serve to explain to our readers
this apparently unaccountable alteration of deportment on the
part of Mr. Tracy Tupman.

The time was evening; the scene the garden. There were two
figures walking in a side path; one was rather short and stout;
the other tall and slim. They were Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle.
The stout figure commenced the dialogue.

'How did I do it?' he inquired.

'Splendid--capital--couldn't act better myself--you must
repeat the part to-morrow--every evening till further notice.'

'Does Rachael still wish it?'

'Of course--she don't like it--but must be done--avert
suspicion--afraid of her brother--says there's no help for it--
only a few days more--when old folks blinded--crown your happiness.'

'Any message?'

'Love--best love--kindest regards--unalterable affection.
Can I say anything for you?'

'My dear fellow,' replied the unsuspicious Mr. Tupman,
fervently grasping his 'friend's' hand--'carry my best love--say
how hard I find it to dissemble--say anything that's kind: but add
how sensible I am of the necessity of the suggestion she made to
me, through you, this morning. Say I applaud her wisdom and
admire her discretion.'
'I will. Anything more?'

'Nothing, only add how ardently I long for the time when I
may call her mine, and all dissimulation may be unnecessary.'

'Certainly, certainly. Anything more?'

'Oh, my friend!' said poor Mr. Tupman, again grasping the
hand of his companion, 'receive my warmest thanks for your
disinterested kindness; and forgive me if I have ever, even in
thought, done you the injustice of supposing that you could stand
in my way. My dear friend, can I ever repay you?'

'Don't talk of it,' replied Mr. Jingle. He stopped short, as if
suddenly recollecting something, and said--'By the bye--can't
spare ten pounds, can you?--very particular purpose--pay you
in three days.'

'I dare say I can,' replied Mr. Tupman, in the fulness of his
heart. 'Three days, you say?'

'Only three days--all over then--no more difficulties.'
Mr. Tupman counted the money into his companion's hand,
and he dropped it piece by piece into his pocket, as they walked
towards the house.

'Be careful,' said Mr. Jingle--'not a look.'

'Not a wink,' said Mr. Tupman.

'Not a syllable.'

'Not a whisper.'

'All your attentions to the niece--rather rude, than otherwise,
to the aunt--only way of deceiving the old ones.'

'I'll take care,' said Mr. Tupman aloud.

'And I'LL take care,' said Mr. Jingle internally; and they
entered the house.

The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and on
the three afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth,
the host was in high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that there
was no ground for the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr.
Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had told him that his affair would soon
be brought to a crisis. So was Mr. Pickwick, for he was seldom
otherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for he had grown jealous
of Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had been winning
at whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons of
sufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated in
another chapter.

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