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Summary Chapter 38

Not until he has had a word with Miss Arabella Allen will Mr. Winkle rejoin the Pickwickians. When apprised of this, Mr. Pickwick, who has personally come to Bristol to settle Mr. Winkle’s situation, decides to help Mr. Winkle in any way he can. Mr. Pickwick commissions Sam to find out about Miss Allen’s location in the vicinity of the Downs, which is where Mr. Winkle supposes Miss Allen is currently situated, if anywhere. Meanwhile, Messrs. Pickwick and Winkle visit Bob Sawyer to see if they can make the medical student allude to Ben Allen’s sister’s location without raising his suspicion.

Thus, Sam Weller canvasses the Downs, asking anyone and everyone about Miss Arabella Allen when he notices a young woman dusting out carpets which are too large for her to handle. Out of gallantry, Sam approaches the woman to help only to come face to face with Mary, the pretty household servant who Sam had fallen in love with and who was formerly in the service of the Nupkins in Ipswich but who is now in the service of another employer here in Bristol. As for Sam, compelled by his feelings for Mary, he lies that he had actively sought her out, explaining his presence. Eventually, Sam gets around to asking Mary about Arabella Allen and discovers, to his shock, that she is currently lodged in a neighboring house, the very house Sam had just inquired about vis-à-vis a surly groom, who revealed nothing.

Being told that Miss Allen only comes out of the house once a day (during the early evening), Sam helps Mary with the large, heavy blankets, and then, when the evening comes, with Mary’s help, Sam situates himself atop a tree from where he manages to engage Miss Allen, telling her in whispers of Mr. Winkle’s desire to have a word with her. Miss Allen confesses that nothing would please her more than to oblige Mr. Winkle, but that her confinement wouldn’t allow it. Sam tells her to leave it all to him, that he will facilitate the meeting.

Subsequently, the next day, as evening falls, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Winkle and Sam repair to the house where Mary is currently employed. Mr. Pickwick has a lantern which he is particularly proud of, but Sam advises Mr. Pickwick to cover the light lest someone notices it and blows their cover. By and by, Sam and the Messrs. Pickwick and Winkle meet Mary who leads them to the coping where thy might secretly converse with Miss Allen when she takes her usual evening walk.

Before undertaking this operation, Mr. Pickwick had impressed upon Mr. Winkle that he–Mr. Pickwick—would, under no circumstances, allow Mr. Winkle to create a misunderstanding vis-à-vis Miss Allen and thereby compromise their good rapport with the Wardles. Consequently, Mr. Pickwick, who is hoisted on Sam’s shoulders, is the first to speak with Miss Allen over the coping. He assures her that Mr. Winkle’s intentions are honorable and that he—Mr. Pickwick—will vouch for Mr. Winkle. Then Mr. Winkle climbs over the coping to confess his feelings for Miss Allen.

Meanwhile, down the street, a scientific gentleman is at his desk writing when he notices a flashing of lights outside his window. Unable to determine its nature, he asks Pruffle, his servant, as to what he thinks the lights signify. When Pruffle replies that the lights signify thieves, the scientific gentleman dismisses Pruffles as a fool and goes out to investigate the lights. Alas, his approach is espied by the Pickwickians, and Sam takes care of it by rendering the scientific gentleman unconscious with a light blow to the head.

When the scientific gentleman comes to, he attributes his having lost consciousness to an electrical pulse emanating from the flashing of lights. He publishes his new scientific discovery.

Charles Dickens