Chapters 38-40 Summary

Mr. Winkle fears that Mr. Dowler would seek a duel with him—and that he might end up killing Mr. Dowler—so he escapes to Bristol. Seeking a place to live, he walks into an apothecary shop and discovers Bob Sawyer, who is living now in Bristol with Ben Allen. Bob’s business is slow, but he deceives the community into thinking he is constantly busy.

Ben tells Winkle that he is trying to match Bob and his sister, Arabella, which Winkle does not like to hear. Ben confesses that Arabella resists his efforts, and he suspects that she has a prior attachment. Winkle hopes it might be he in whom she is interested. Ben has secluded his sister nearby in the home of an old aunt.

Winkle, Ben, and Bob drink to their unexpected reunion with predictable results. Winkle is surprised to find Dowler in Bristol. He has come to apologize to Mr. Winkle for his misunderstanding. That night, Sam Weller also arrives in Bristol to take Winkle back to London. Winkle, however, convinces Sam to stay with him to help him discover the location of Arabella Allen.

Sam keeps a close eye on Mr. Winkle and informs Mr. Pickwick of his location by letter. Pickwick comes to Bristol to investigate the situation. Winkle explains that he intends to find Arabella and declare his love. It is agreed that Sam should be sent in search of Arabella while Pickwick and Winkle talk to Bob Sawyer.

In his search, Sam comes across a surly groom who gives him no information. As Sam waits until something happens, he sees a maid come out to shake the carpets. He is surprised to discover that it is Mary, Mr. Nupkins’s former servant. Sam tells her he has come to Bristol in search of her—and he learns from Mary that Arabella is staying in the house next door. Because Arabella goes out only in the evening, Sam proposes to return at that time to give her the message from Winkle. He comes back and arranges a meeting between Arabella and Winkle the next evening. Pickwick presents himself as chaperone for the sake of Arabella’s reputation.

As Winkle, Sam, and Pickwick meet Arabella in the dark of the evening, a scientific gentleman in a nearby house observes a light outside and concludes it is a phenomenon of nature that will make him famous. It is, however, only the three Pickwickians, who are thought to be thieves and run off into the night.

The Pickwickians return to London, and within a few days, Mr. Pickwick is arrested for nonpayment of damages. Despite Perker’s appeals, Pickwick refuses to pay them and is escorted to Fleet Prison, accompanied by Sam. He rents a bed from an inmate for his first night in debtor’s prison.