Chapters 12-14 Summary
Mr. Pickwick rents rooms from the widow Mrs. Bardell, who has a young son. Although Mr. Pickwick is only a lodger, he is definitely the ruler of the home. One day he sends the young Bardell boy off on an errand and has a conversation with Mrs. Bardell that will have repercussions in Mr. Pickwick’s future. He asks her if she thinks it is as easy for two to live as cheaply as one. Mrs. Bardell jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Pickwick is leading up to a proposal of marriage. Mr. Pickwick says he has someone in mind who will be a helpmate for Mrs. Bardell and a companion to her son. He is shocked when Mrs. Bardell throws herself on him. He tries to push her off but she faints in his arms just as the Bardell boy and the three other Pickwickians arrive. The boy attacks him, thinking the older man has caused his mother’s unconscious state. Mr. Pickwick manages to have Mrs. Bardell carried downstairs while he explains to his friend that he was talking to her about hiring a man servant—Sam Weller, who is outside the door. Mr. Pickwick explains the conditions of employment to Sam, who readily accepts and is prepared to start that evening.
Mr. Pickwick and his companions journey to Eatanswill (a pseudonym Mr. Pickwick used to avoid any negative opinions about the real town) during the period of its local elections. The town is full of voters and the party is split. Mr. Perker, Pickwick’s attorney, is a member of the party supporting Mr. Slumkey, so the Pickwickians decide they must support him as well. They learn of the dishonesty of the entire voting process; some voters are even being held hostage. In the end, Mr. Slumkey is elected.
While Pickwick and Winkle stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Potts (with Winkle paying particular attention to Mrs. Pott), Tupman and Snodgrass stay at the Peacock Inn, where they are entertained by a story told by a bagman: Tom Smart stops at an inn run by a widow. At the bar, he sees a tall stranger, who strikes him as suspicious. After several drinks, Tom goes to bed, where he is surprised to find an old chair take the form of an old man. This chair/old man tells him that the tall stranger, whose name is Jinkins, was courting the widow but is in fact already married. The chair says there is a letter in Jinkins’s pocket, which relates this information. The next morning, Tom takes the letter from Jinkins’s pocket while Jinkins is asleep and relates this information to the widow, proposing to her himself in the process. They are married a month later.