'We are all anxious to know,' said the old gentleman, 'what we have done to offend you, and to induce you to desert us and devote yourself to these solitary walks.'
'Are you?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'It is singular enough that I had intended to volunteer a full explanation this very day; so, if you will give me another glass of wine, I will satisfy your curiosity.'
The decanters passed from hand to hand with unwonted briskness, and Mr. Pickwick, looking round on the faces of his friends with a cheerful smile, proceeded-- 'All the changes that have taken place among us,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I mean the marriage that HAS taken place, and the marriage that WILL take place, with the changes they involve, rendered it necessary for me to think, soberly and at once, upon my future plans. I determined on retiring to some quiet, pretty neighbourhood in the vicinity of London; I saw a house which exactly suited my fancy; I have taken it and furnished it. It is fully prepared for my reception, and I intend entering upon it at once, trusting that I may yet live to spend many quiet years in peaceful retirement, cheered through life by the society of my friends, and followed in death by their affectionate remembrance.'
Here Mr. Pickwick paused, and a low murmur ran round the table.
'The house I have taken,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is at Dulwich. It has a large garden, and is situated in one of the most pleasant spots near London. It has been fitted up with every attention to substantial comfort; perhaps to a little elegance besides; but of that you shall judge for yourselves. Sam accompanies me there. I have engaged, on Perker's representation, a housekeeper--a very old one--and such other servants as she thinks I shall require. I propose to consecrate this little retreat, by having a ceremony in which I take a great interest, performed there. I wish, if my friend Wardle entertains no objection, that his daughter should be married from my new house, on the day I take possession of it. The happiness of young people,' said Mr. Pickwick, a little moved, 'has ever been the chief pleasure of my life. It will warm my heart to witness the happiness of those friends who are dearest to me, beneath my own roof.'
Mr. Pickwick paused again: Emily and Arabella sobbed audibly.
'I have communicated, both personally and by letter, with the club,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'acquainting them with my intention. During our long absence, it has suffered much from internal dissentions; and the withdrawal of my name, coupled with this and other circumstances, has occasioned its dissolution. The Pickwick Club exists no longer.
'I shall never regret,' said Mr. Pickwick in a low voice, 'I shall never regret having devoted the greater part of two years to mixing with different varieties and shades of human character, frivolous as my pursuit of novelty may have appeared to many. Nearly the whole of my previous life having been devoted to business and the pursuit of wealth, numerous scenes of which I had no previous conception have dawned upon me--I hope to the enlargement of my mind, and the improvement of my understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a source of amusing and pleasant recollection to me in the decline of life. God bless you all!'
With these words, Mr.