Chapters 15-17 Summary
Mr. Pickwick receives an invitation from Mrs. Leo Hunter to attend a fancy-dress ball at her home. Mr. Pickwick is concerned that he has no costume, but he is told that because he is the celebrated Mr. Pickwick, it is unnecessary for him to come in masquerade. Pickwick and Tupman have a heated debate about Tupman’s costume as a bandit. Mr. Pickwick says Tupman is too old and too fat. Tupman takes offence and dresses as a bandit anyway. The rest of the Pickwickians finds costumes purported to be “classical” but are in reality nothing of the sort; they merely have a great deal of spangles. At the ball, the Pickwickians are shocked to find Alfred Jingle, who is going by the name Charles Fitz-Marshall. Pickwick resolves to track Jingle down to prevent him from deceiving anyone else.
At Bury St. Edmonds, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller learn that Alfred Jingle (under the name of Charles Fitz-Marshall) is staying there. Sam meets Jingle’s servant, Job Trotter, who tells him Jingle is preparing to elope with a young lady at a local academy that very night. Sam takes Job to repeat the story to Mr. Pickwick. Job talks the reluctant Pickwick into intervening out of his desire to stop Jingle from hurting anyone else. Job tells Pickwick to sneak into the academy that night and tell the headmistress. Job says he will meet Pickwick there. That night, Sam pushes Pickwick over the wall into the back garden. Pickwick sits in hiding during a thunderstorm until all the young ladies have gone to sleep. Unfortunately, he has been heard by the teachers and students. He explains that he wants to see Miss Tompkins, the headmistress, who tells him that she has never heard of either Charles Fitz-Marshall or Alfred Jingle. Pickwick sends for Sam to verify his intention. Sam arrives with Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle, who have come to the area for some hunting. Pickwick realizes he has been tricked, and both Jingle and Job Trotter have managed to escape.
The next day, Pickwick is struck with an attack of rheumatism since staying out in the thunderstorm. While he is bedridden, he entertains Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle with a story called “The Parish Clerk: A Tale of True Love.” Nathanial Pipkin, the parish clerk, falls in love with Mariah Lobbs, the daughter of the well-to-do saddler. Although Mariah encourages Nathaniel, Mr. Lobbs does not approve of such a poor suitor for his daughter. When Nathaniel asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Lobbs refuses him outright, but he and Nathaniel become friends. Mariah eventually marries her cousin, and it is recorded that Nathaniel was arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct on the day of her marriage.