Thanks in great part to the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Pott, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle pleasantly spend their time in Eatanswill. Meanwhile, Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Tupman manage to beguile their time by availing themselves of the amusements the Peacock has to offer. Chief among these amusements is the social gathering in the Peacock’s “commercial room” during the evening.
Presently, with the Eatanswill election having just ended, Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Tupman spend their time in the “commercial room” when a dispute arises about the relative merits of women among the gathered assembly which include the one-eyed man, the placid man, the dirty-faced man, and the very red-faced man. The dispute compels the one-eyed man to tell a story, which on second thought he hesitates to tell, but on third thought, urged onto it by Mr. Tupman, he decides to tell after all.
Entitled “The Bagman’s Story,” the one-eyed man’s story is about a traveler named Tom Smart who one day finds himself traversing the roads on the windiest, wettest, and the most miserable days imaginable. His horse seems none too happy about the situation as well on account which Tom promises the horse that they’ll find lodgings at the first roadside inn that they come across.
As promised, they find lodgings at the first roadside inn that they come across. While his horse is sheltered and fed, Tom Smart enjoys a tumbler of hot punch. As he drinks, he notes with pleasure the various aspects of the inn. Indeed, but for a tall man who seems bent on making the attractive innkeeper, a buxom widow, marry him, everything about the inn pleases Tom Smart greatly. Though he would’ve liked to confront the tall man and contend for the buxom widow’s affections, Tom Smart decides to turn in for the night.
Tom Smart goes to his room where he notes with curiosity an old chair. He falls asleep only to awake an hour later. He takes note of the old chair again, though why he couldn’t say. He tries to go back to sleep but to no avail. Suddenly, the old chair metamorphoses into an ugly, old man. Tom Smart attributes the miracle to his having drunken five tumblers of hot punch when the old chair, now the ugly, old man, talks to him.
At first, Tom berates the old chair, but when its aspect becomes something fierce, Tom regards it with a measure of respect. By and by, the old chair informs Tom that it knows everything there is to know about Tom, especially his penury. Then explaining that the buxom widow, the innkeeper, is its ward, the old chair tells Tom to marry the widow. When Tom mentions the exploits of the tall man, the old chair avers that it would never do for the tall man, whose name is Jinkins, to marry the buxom widow and it explains why: Jinkins is already married and is the father of six kids; if he marries the buxom widow, Jinkins will leave her after having sponged her dry of her money. Tom, on the other hand, will always be faithful to the buxom widow, as long as there is something to drink within the four walls, the old chair prognosticates.
Somewhat flattered, Tom tells the old chair that the story discrediting Jinkins is all good and dandy, but how would he ever go about proving its veracity? The old chair informs Tom that in cupboard yonder there is a pair of trousers in a pocket of which is a letter written by Jinkins incriminating himself.
Presently, Tom Smart falls asleep. When he awakes, Tom talks to the chair to no avail. Tom thinks that last night’s occurrence was a hallucination. But just in case, he checks the cupboard . Sure enough, there he finds the trousers and the letter!
Tom Smart goes downstairs to engage the buxom widow about the tall man. He asks about him, and the widow replies that his name is Jinkins. Tom warns her not to marry him, showing her the letter. Needless to say, the widow doesn’t marry Jinkins. She marries Tom Smart instead.
Though its veracity is questioned, the story is a success among the gathered assembly at the Peacock.