Mystified by Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle’s absence throughout the day, Mr. Pickwick welcomes them back with more enthusiasm than usual. Subsequently, Mr. Snodgrass starts to relate, in great detail, the cause of his and Mr. Winkle’s absence when he and Winkle are introduced to “Dismal Jemmy,” a friend of the stranger. Presently, “Dismal Jemmy,” who was about to tell a story of his own when Snodgrass and Winkle interrupted and who is an actor by trade and whose real name is Hutley, resumes his story which is a dismal one about a talented actor with a drinking problem, entitled the “The Stroller’s Tale.”
Because of the tenuous nature of the acting profession, most actors lose their ability to earn a steady income after a brief bout of success, and Jemmy’s talented actor friend w/the drinking problem, whose name is John, is no exception. One night, Jemmy, who is also an actor, bumps into his actor friend John who is, not surprisingly, in a state of piteous penury and physical ill-health. John begs for a handout and Jemmy obliges.
A few nights later, a messenger gives Jemmy a note in which is written a plea for Jemmy to be by the John’s side, as John is “dangerously ill.” Jemmy complies with the John’s wish and appears at his bedside. John is, alas, in a delusional state as he believes his wife, who is also present, means to harm him. Jemmy does what he can to comfort John and promises John’s wife that he’ll return the following night to keep an eye on her husband.
As promised, Jemmy returns on the following night only to find that John is more delusional than ever before. (It is obvious that John is on his death bed.) John believes that he is well and wonders why his caretakers are preventing him from going to work. Then, it happens: With one last struggle, John tries to say something of import only to die.
The story having been concluded, Mr. Pickwick is about to comment on it when he is interrupted with a message that visitors are on their way to pay their respects to Mr. Pickwick & Co. Mr. Winkle explains who the visitors are: officers of the 97th Regiment who he—Mr Winkle—had befriended in the morning. By and by, the visitors appear, and Mr. Winkle does the honors of making introductions. The introductions go well when all of a sudden Dr. Slammer takes offense at the sight of Mr. Tupman and especially at the sight of the stranger. Dr. Slammer confides in Lieutenant Tappleton who proceeds to interrogate Mr. Pickwick as to the exact nature of his relationship to the stranger. Mr. Pickwick affirms that the stranger is his guest and denies that he is a member of the Pickwick Club. By and by, identifying the stranger as a notorious actor, Lieutenant Tappleton advises Mr. Pickwick to be more circumspect in choosing his friends before rudely taking his leave, accompanied by Dr. Slammer and Dr. Payne.
Their rude, inexplicable departure infuriates Mr. Pickwick who has to be restrained lest he run after them and choke Dr. Payne who was especially rude. A draught of an alcoholic beverage brings Mr. Pickwick to his senses, however, and all is well.