Episode Two – Duellus Interruptus
When last seen, intrepid Pickwickian Mr. Winkle (Jeremy Nicholas) was facing a duel, due to the boorish conduct of someone wearing his clothes at a ball, and Mr. Snodgrass (Alan Parnaby) was acting as his not-very-brave-but-still-loyal second. As the episode begins, it soon becomes obvious that neither gentleman has any idea what to do in a duel and furthermore, purported sportsman Mr. Winkle is decidedly squeamish about pistols. By contrast, the military men present are deadly serious about the business, and in the case of Dr. Payne (David Webb) perhaps a little too enthusiastic to see bloodshed. Luckily for Mr. Winkle, Dr. Slammer (Gerald James) realizes an error has been made, and that Winkle is not the man who so grievously insulted him. Despite Dr. Payne’s attempts to entice someone – anyone – to take offense at someone – anyone else on any slim pretext because he really wants a duel, everyone shakes hands and comes away on good terms. The Pickwickians offer to introduce the military men to their group of friends back at the hotel.
Another Remarkable Tale
Meanwhile, our hero Mr. Alfred Jingle has been holding the other Pickwickians spellbound with more tales of ladies he has known. The most recent tale involves a lovelorn Spanish lady who attempts suicide by prussic acid when forcibly separated from her handsome English suitor (Jingle, of course) by her jealous father. Jingle saves the day due to the convenient presence of a stomach pump in his portmanteau (what, doesn’t everyone carry one?) but tragically, the lady later dies and her father goes missing. By coincidence (everything’s coincidental in this story) the village’s fountain just happens to stop working at about the same time. A search finds the remorseful father’s corpse stopping up the works of the fountain, a signed confession conveniently tucked into his boot. The fountain is restored, Jingle vindicated, and a credulous Mr. Pickwick eats it all up, asking if Jingle has any more such stories. “Surely… fifty more if you want ’em,” is the reply, and we have no doubt they would be just as entertaining.
Further stories are interrupted by the arrival of Winkle, Snodgrass, and their new military friends. Introductions take place and Slammer recognizes Jingle as the boor who refused to give him his card when challenged after the ball. Pickwick affirms that although Jingle is not a member of the Pickwick Club, he is its guest. Lt. Tappleton (John Patrick) makes the most damning pronouncement: he’s the one to recognize Jingle as a “strolling AHC-tor”, and therefore a lesser being. Tappleton advises Slammer that he (Slammer) is “bound to kick him” (as an actor, Jingle is certainly not worthy of being challenged to a duel). Dr. Payne expresses outrage that the Pickwickians would associate with such a ne’er-do-well and, after saying he’d pull all their noses, he advises them to choose their friends more wisely. Jingle remains unruffled and quite cheerful as these approbations are dished out and feelings run high; it’s Pickwick who becomes outraged and has to be restrained from throwing himself at Slammer as the latter exits the room. Jingle quickly suggests a brandy to settle everyone’s nerves (more free booze), and the situation is defused.
A Disastrous Hunting Expedition
Jingle is absent for the rest of the episode – he’s actually appearing on stage in that town – so the rest of the episode is taken up with the Pickwickians’ mishaps on their way to visit Mr. Wardle (Colin Douglas) at Dingley Dell. They’re as inexperienced with horses, either harnessed or riding, as they are with nearly everything else. They also make a disastrous attempt at going hunting once they finally arrive. The self-described sportsman, Mr. Winkle, is not good with firearms as we have seen, and succeeds in hitting only one target, the unfortunate Mr. Tupman (Clive Swift). However, there’s no cloud without a silver lining as Tupman is nursed through his (very superficial) injury by the attentive ministrations of Mr. Wardle’s spinster sister, Miss Rachel (Freda Dowie). He soon becomes smitten with her and she with him, having received little such attention in her life. The episode concludes with Wardle suggesting he and his guests attend a cricket match between the local Dingley Dell team and the neighbouring village of Muggleton. Pickwick agrees, pointedly saying (while eyeing a rather guilty-looking Mr. Winkle) that he approves of sports where bodily injury can be avoided.
Episode Three – The Cricket Match and After
The Pickwickians arrive at the cricket match, where they’re directed almost immediately towards the refreshments tent, which has the “best view” (ie. they don’t have to watch). Before they can enter, they hear a familiar voice exclaiming, “Capital game – smart sport. Fine exercise – very! Mr. Pickwick!” It’s their old friend Jingle, who has once again fortuitously manged to be present where free food and drink are in the offing. He drags Mr. Pickwick into the refreshments tent while describing the available victuals in rhapsodic detail. As he explains it, he managed to meet up with a group of cricketers in Muggleton (he describes the food they were eating in greater detail than the people) who were on their way to this game and here he is.
A Tryst in the Garden
Meanwhile, back at Dingley Dell, Mr. Tupman takes advantage of Old Mrs. Wardle’s (Patience Collier) nap to suggest that Miss Rachel water her flowers outside, while he accompanies her. Once they’re alone in the garden’s arbor, Mr. Tupman uses the opportunity to press his suit, describing Miss Rachel as “an angel” and “a rare combination of excellence and beauty”. It’s heady stuff, and Miss Rachel’s maidenly shyness is soon overcome as she puts a liplock on the startled Mr. Tupman. Their tryst is cut short by the arrival of Joe (David Nunn), the houseboy, calling them in for dinner. The lovers believe Joe couldn’t have possibly seen anything and their secret is safe, but his amused chuckle once they’re out of earshot suggests their hopes are in vain.
The cricketers return from the match in a state of total inebriation – they’ve been spending time with Jingle, remember – as the ladies of the house are suddenly treated to a lively and loud rendition of “What shall we do with a drunken sailor?” It’s a truly great scene – Jingle knows all the words, and is in fact dancing to the tune with Mr. Wardle when the ladies enter the room. The ladies are shocked by the gentlemen’s drunkenness and their stubborn refusal to go to bed; the men are eventually hustled out of the room as a comparatively sober Jingle declares (in a sudden and perfect switching of gears), “Dreadful. Dreadful. Horrid spectacle. My apologies, ladies”. The ladies exclaim about how nice and good-looking he is, as he proceeds to set his sights on the oblivious Miss Rachel. Jingle doesn’t know Tupman is sweet on her at this point, but he does know that as Mr. Wardle’s sister, she likely has some money of her own… not that I’m suggesting he’d be so terribly venal! 😉
Of course, Joe the houseboy can’t keep a juicy secret to himself and, during an afternoon walk, he tells Old Mrs. Wardle about Miss Rachel’s tryst with Tupman. She’s incensed with her daughter, saying that Miss Rachel should have waited until she was dead first. The entire conversation is overheard by Jingle, who conveniently happens to be strolling in the garden and enjoying a cigar near the arbor at the time. He gets a rather pleased look on his face and hastily makes his way back to the house, avoiding Wardle and the Pickwickians along the way.
Jingle wastes no time telling Miss Rachel that her secret has been betrayed and that her mother is “wild – raving” about it (a slight exaggeration). His only wish, of course, is to help her avoid any trouble; when she worries that her brother, Mr. Wardle, will be furious, he suggests (very practically – his voice does change when he’s being practical) “Say he [Joe] dreamt it”. Jingle then sobs and seems overcome by unhappiness; in answer to Miss Rachel’s inquiries, he protests about a beauty such as hers “being sacrificed at the shrine” in his best (overly) theatrical form. She plainly doesn’t get it, so he’s forced to explain in simpler language that Tupman is only after her money and is, in fact, truly interested in her golden-haired, blue-eyed, much younger niece, Emily (Valerie Whittington). It’s all a fiction, but Miss Rachel believes it and is furious with the innocent Mr. Tupman. Jingle advises her to watch the two of them during dinner for not-so-well-hidden signs of Tupman’s betrayal. He concludes the conversation by passionately pressing the bewildered Miss Rachel’s hand to his cheek.
Jealousy and Deception
Later at dinner, Mr. Tupman does seem to be paying an unwonted amount of attention to Emily, to Jingle’s evident delight and Miss Rachel’s growing jealousy. We soon find out why: Jingle has advised Tupman to cut Miss Rachel dead in Emily’s favour, under the guise of fulfilling a request from Miss Rachel herself, in order to deflect her brother’s wrath at her romance. In short, the wily Jingle is a double agent! He confidentially advises Tupman that all is going well, promises to carry his messages of affection back to Miss Rachel, then borrows ten pounds for an important errand before disappearing upstairs.
Eloping to London
It’s discovered the next day that neither Jingle nor Miss Rachel is to be found. A footman reveals that they left by post chaise for London, and Tupman is shocked to realize he’s unknowingly paid all of their expenses, as well as being deprived of his new love interest. Wardle is indeed furious, blaming Joe the houseboy for making him believe his sister’s interests lay with Tupman rather than Jingle, and vowing hot pursuit until Pickwick more cool headedly suggests contacting his lawyer, Perker (Milton Johns), to help track down Jingle, who will need a special license if he intends to marry Miss Rachel quickly. Wardle agrees that the pursuit can wait… until after dinner.
Meanwhile, at the White Hart Inn in London, we’re introduced to cockney Sam Weller (Phil Daniels), a “boots” (bootblack/shoe-shiner) and all-around wag. He’s even in the process of polishing Jingle’s boots when we first see him; he will end up becoming very important to the Pickwickians, Mr. Pickwick in particular. Jingle and Miss Rachel have taken a room at the inn; she’s very eager to marry right away (having rapidly and passionately fallen for Jingle), but he reminds her that they need to obtain a license and give notice at church first, so they can marry on the morrow. Sam appears with Jingle’s boots and directs him to where he can find some licensing “touts”, and Jingle sets off, after bestowing (with only slight hesitation) a rather abrupt kiss on Miss Rachel’s forehead. It’s truly hilarious – you can see him think about it for a split second before he does it.
While he’s gone, Pickwick, Wardle, and Mr. Perker arrive at the White Hart and discover from Sam and his shoe expertise that they have finally managed to locate Miss Rachel and that bounder and cad, Jingle!
What happens next?? Will Miss Rachel marry Jingle?? Will Tupman recover from his broken heart?? Stay tuned for Episode 4! 😉