{tocify}

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


CHAPTER XXXI. WHICH IS ALL ABOUT THE LAW, AND SUNDRY GREAT AUTHORITIES LEARNED THEREIN

Scattered about, in various holes and corners of the Temple, are certain dark and dirty chambers, in and out of which, all the morning in vacation, and half the evening too in term time, there may be seen constantly hurrying with bundles of papers under their arms, and protruding from their pockets, an almost uninterrupted succession of lawyers’ clerks. There are several grades of lawyers’ clerks. There is the articled clerk, who has paid a premium, and is an attorney in perspective, who runs a tailor’s bill, receives invitations to parties, knows a family in Gower Street, and another in Tavistock Square; who goes out of town every long vacation to see his father, who keeps live horses innumerable; and who is, in short, the very aristocrat of clerks. There is the salaried clerk—out of door, or in door, as the case may be—who devotes the major part of his thirty shillings a week to his Personal pleasure and adornments, repairs half-price to the Adelphi Theatre at least three times a week, dissipates majestically at the cider cellars afterwards, and is a dirty caricature of the fashion which expired six months ago. There is the middle-aged copying clerk, with a large family, who is always shabby, and often drunk. And there are the office lads in their first surtouts, who feel a befitting contempt for boys at day-schools, club as they go home at night, for saveloys and porter, and think there’s nothing like ‘life.’ There are varieties of the genus, too numerous to recapitulate, but however numerous they may be, they are all to be seen, at certain regulated business hours, hurrying to and from the places we have just mentioned.

These sequestered nooks are the public offices of the legal profession, where writs are issued, judgments signed, declarations filed, and numerous other ingenious machines put in motion for the torture and torment of His Majesty’s liege subjects, and the comfort and emolument of the practitioners of the law. They are, for the most part, low-roofed, mouldy rooms, where innumerable rolls of parchment, which have been perspiring in secret for the last century, send forth an agreeable odour, which is mingled by day with the scent of the dry-rot, and by night with the various exhalations which arise from damp cloaks, festering umbrellas, and the coarsest tallow candles.

About half-past seven o’clock in the evening, some ten days or a fortnight after Mr. Pickwick and his friends returned to London, there hurried into one of these offices, an individual in a brown coat and brass buttons, whose long hair was scrupulously twisted round the rim of his napless hat, and whose soiled drab trousers were so tightly strapped over his Blucher boots, that his knees threatened every moment to start from their concealment. He produced from his coat pockets a long and narrow strip of parchment, on which the presiding functionary impressed an illegible black stamp. He then drew forth four scraps of paper, of similar dimensions, each containing a printed copy of the strip of parchment with blanks for a name; and having filled up the blanks, put all the five documents in his pocket, and hurried away.

The man in the brown coat, with the cabalistic documents in his pocket, was no other than our old acquaintance Mr. Jackson, of the house of Dodson & Fogg, Freeman’s Court, Cornhill. Instead of returning to the office whence he came, however, he bent his steps direct to Sun Court, and walking straight into the George and Vulture, demanded to know whether one Mr. Pickwick was within.

‘Call Mr. Pickwick’s servant, Tom,’ said the barmaid of the George and Vulture.

‘Don’t trouble yourself,’ said Mr. Jackson. ‘I’ve come on business. If you’ll show me Mr. Pickwick’s room I’ll step up myself.’

‘What name, Sir?’ said the waiter.

‘Jackson,’ replied the clerk.

The waiter stepped upstairs to announce Mr. Jackson; but Mr. Jackson saved him the trouble by following close at his heels, and walking into the apartment before he could articulate a syllable.

Mr. Pickwick had, that day, invited his three friends to dinner; they were all seated round the fire, drinking their wine, when Mr. Jackson presented himself, as above described.

‘How de do, sir?’ said Mr. Jackson, nodding to Mr. Pickwick.

That gentleman bowed, and looked somewhat surprised, for the physiognomy of Mr. Jackson dwelt not in his recollection.

‘I have called from Dodson and Fogg’s,’ said Mr. Jackson, in an explanatory tone.

Mr. Pickwick roused at the name. ‘I refer you to my attorney, Sir; Mr. Perker, of Gray’s Inn,’ said he. ‘Waiter, show this gentleman out.’

‘Beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Jackson, deliberately depositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket the strip of parchment. ‘But personal service, by clerk or agent, in these cases, you know, Mr. Pickwick—nothing like caution, sir, in all legal forms—eh?’

Here Mr. Jackson cast his eye on the parchment; and, resting his hands on the table, and looking round with a winning and persuasive smile, said, ‘Now, come; don’t let’s have no words about such a little matter as this. Which of you gentlemen’s name’s Snodgrass?’

At this inquiry, Mr. Snodgrass gave such a very undisguised and palpable start, that no further reply was needed.

‘Ah! I thought so,’ said Mr. Jackson, more affably than before. ‘I’ve a little something to trouble you with, Sir.’

‘Me!’ exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass.

‘It’s only a subpoena in Bardell and Pickwick on behalf of the plaintiff,’ replied Jackson, singling out one of the slips of paper, and producing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket. ‘It’ll come on, in the settens after Term: fourteenth of Febooary, we expect; we’ve marked it a special jury cause, and it’s only ten down the paper. That’s yours, Mr. Snodgrass.’ As Jackson said this, he presented the parchment before the eyes of Mr. Snodgrass, and slipped the paper and the shilling into his hand.

Mr. Tupman had witnessed this process in silent astonishment, when Jackson, turning sharply upon him, said—

‘I think I ain’t mistaken when I say your name’s Tupman, am I?’

Mr. Tupman looked at Mr. Pickwick; but, perceiving no encouragement in that gentleman’s widely-opened eyes to deny his name, said—

‘Yes, my name is Tupman, Sir.’

‘And that other gentleman’s Mr. Winkle, I think?’ said Jackson. Mr. Winkle faltered out a reply in the affirmative; and both gentlemen were forthwith invested with a slip of paper, and a shilling each, by the dexterous Mr. Jackson.

‘Now,’ said Jackson, ‘I’m afraid you’ll think me rather troublesome, but I want somebody else, if it ain’t inconvenient. I have Samuel Weller’s name here, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘Send my servant here, waiter,’ said Mr. Pickwick. The waiter retired, considerably astonished, and Mr. Pickwick motioned Jackson to a seat.

There was a painful pause, which was at length broken by the innocent defendant.

‘I suppose, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, his indignation rising while he spoke—‘I suppose, Sir, that it is the intention of your employers to seek to criminate me upon the testimony of my own friends?’

Mr. Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the left side of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose the secrets of the prison house, and playfully rejoined—

‘Not knowin’, can’t say.’

‘For what other reason, Sir,’ pursued Mr. Pickwick, ‘are these subpoenas served upon them, if not for this?’

‘Very good plant, Mr. Pickwick,’ replied Jackson, slowly shaking his head. ‘But it won’t do. No harm in trying, but there’s little to be got out of me.’

Here Mr. Jackson smiled once more upon the company, and, applying his left thumb to the tip of his nose, worked a visionary coffee-mill with his right hand, thereby performing a very graceful piece of pantomime (then much in vogue, but now, unhappily, almost obsolete) which was familiarly denominated ‘taking a grinder.’

‘No, no, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Jackson, in conclusion; ‘Perker’s people must guess what we’ve served these subpoenas for. If they can’t, they must wait till the action comes on, and then they’ll find out.’

Mr. Pickwick bestowed a look of excessive disgust on his unwelcome visitor, and would probably have hurled some tremendous anathema at the heads of Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, had not Sam’s entrance at the instant interrupted him.

‘Samuel Weller?’ said Mr. Jackson, inquiringly.

‘Vun o’ the truest things as you’ve said for many a long year,’ replied Sam, in a most composed manner.

‘Here’s a subpoena for you, Mr. Weller,’ said Jackson.

‘What’s that in English?’ inquired Sam.

‘Here’s the original,’ said Jackson, declining the required explanation.

‘Which?’ said Sam.

‘This,’ replied Jackson, shaking the parchment.

‘Oh, that’s the ‘rig’nal, is it?’ said Sam. ‘Well, I’m wery glad I’ve seen the ‘rig’nal, ‘cos it’s a gratifyin’ sort o’ thing, and eases vun’s mind so much.’

‘And here’s the shilling,’ said Jackson. ‘It’s from Dodson and Fogg’s.’

‘And it’s uncommon handsome o’ Dodson and Fogg, as knows so little of me, to come down vith a present,’ said Sam. ‘I feel it as a wery high compliment, sir; it’s a wery honorable thing to them, as they knows how to reward merit werever they meets it. Besides which, it’s affectin’ to one’s feelin’s.’

As Mr. Weller said this, he inflicted a little friction on his right eyelid, with the sleeve of his coat, after the most approved manner of actors when they are in domestic pathetics.

Mr. Jackson seemed rather puzzled by Sam’s proceedings; but, as he had served the subpoenas, and had nothing more to say, he made a feint of putting on the one glove which he usually carried in his hand, for the sake of appearances; and returned to the office to report progress.

Mr. Pickwick slept little that night; his memory had received a very disagreeable refresher on the subject of Mrs. Bardell’s action. He breakfasted betimes next morning, and, desiring Sam to accompany him, set forth towards Gray’s Inn Square.

‘Sam!’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking round, when they got to the end of Cheapside.

‘Sir?’ said Sam, stepping up to his master.

‘Which way?’

Up Newgate Street.’

Mr. Pickwick did not turn round immediately, but looked vacantly in Sam’s face for a few seconds, and heaved a deep sigh.

‘What’s the matter, sir?’ inquired Sam.

‘This action, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘is expected to come on, on the fourteenth of next month.’

Remarkable coincidence that ‘ere, sir,’ replied Sam.

‘Why remarkable, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Walentine’s day, sir,’ responded Sam; ‘reg’lar good day for a breach o’ promise trial.’

Mr. Weller’s smile awakened no gleam of mirth in his master’s countenance. Mr. Pickwick turned abruptly round, and led the way in silence.

They had walked some distance, Mr. Pickwick trotting on before, plunged in profound meditation, and Sam following behind, with a countenance expressive of the most enviable and easy defiance of everything and everybody, when the latter, who was always especially anxious to impart to his master any exclusive information he possessed, quickened his pace until he was close at Mr. Pickwick’s heels; and, pointing up at a house they were passing, said—

‘Wery nice pork-shop that ‘ere, sir.’

‘Yes, it seems so,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Celebrated sassage factory,’ said Sam.

‘Is it?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Is it!’ reiterated Sam, with some indignation; ‘I should rayther think it was. Why, sir, bless your innocent eyebrows, that’s where the mysterious disappearance of a ‘spectable tradesman took place four years ago.’

‘You don’t mean to say he was burked, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking hastily round.

‘No, I don’t indeed, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘I wish I did; far worse than that. He was the master o’ that ‘ere shop, sir, and the inwentor o’ the patent-never-leavin’-off sassage steam-ingin, as ‘ud swaller up a pavin’ stone if you put it too near, and grind it into sassages as easy as if it was a tender young babby. Wery proud o’ that machine he was, as it was nat’ral he should be, and he’d stand down in the celler a-lookin’ at it wen it was in full play, till he got quite melancholy with joy. A wery happy man he’d ha’ been, Sir, in the procession o’ that ‘ere ingin and two more lovely hinfants besides, if it hadn’t been for his wife, who was a most owdacious wixin. She was always a-follerin’ him about, and dinnin’ in his ears, till at last he couldn’t stand it no longer. “I’ll tell you what it is, my dear,” he says one day; “if you persewere in this here sort of amusement,” he says, “I’m blessed if I don’t go away to ‘Merriker; and that’s all about it.” “You’re a idle willin,” says she, “and I wish the ‘Merrikins joy of their bargain.” Arter which she keeps on abusin’ of him for half an hour, and then runs into the little parlour behind the shop, sets to a-screamin’, says he’ll be the death on her, and falls in a fit, which lasts for three good hours—one o’ them fits wich is all screamin’ and kickin’. Well, next mornin’, the husband was missin’. He hadn’t taken nothin’ from the till—hadn’t even put on his greatcoat—so it was quite clear he warn’t gone to ‘Merriker. Didn’t come back next day; didn’t come back next week; missis had bills printed, sayin’ that, if he’d come back, he should be forgiven everythin’ (which was very liberal, seein’ that he hadn’t done nothin’ at all); the canals was dragged, and for two months arterwards, wenever a body turned up, it was carried, as a reg’lar thing, straight off to the sassage shop. Hows’ever, none on ‘em answered; so they gave out that he’d run away, and she kep’ on the bis’ness. One Saturday night, a little, thin, old gen’l’m’n comes into the shop in a great passion and says, “Are you the missis o’ this here shop?” “Yes, I am,” says she. “Well, ma’am,” says he, “then I’ve just looked in to say that me and my family ain’t a-goin’ to be choked for nothin’; and more than that, ma’am,” he says, “you’ll allow me to observe that as you don’t use the primest parts of the meat in the manafacter o’ sassages, I’d think you’d find beef come nearly as cheap as buttons.” “As buttons, Sir!” says she. “Buttons, ma’am,” says the little, old gentleman, unfolding a bit of paper, and showin’ twenty or thirty halves o’ buttons. “Nice seasonin’ for sassages, is trousers’ buttons, ma’am.” “They’re my husband’s buttons!” says the widder beginnin’ to faint, “What!” screams the little old gen’l’m’n, turnin’ wery pale. “I see it all,” says the widder; “in a fit of temporary insanity he rashly converted hisself into sassages!” And so he had, Sir,’ said Mr. Weller, looking steadily into Mr. Pickwick’s horror-stricken countenance, ‘or else he’d been draw’d into the ingin; but however that might ha’ been, the little, old gen’l’m’n, who had been remarkably partial to sassages all his life, rushed out o’ the shop in a wild state, and was never heerd on arterwards!’

The relation of this affecting incident of private life brought master and man to Mr. Perker’s chambers. Lowten, holding the door half open, was in conversation with a rustily-clad, miserable-looking man, in boots without toes and gloves without fingers. There were traces of privation and suffering—almost of despair—in his lank and care-worn countenance; he felt his poverty, for he shrank to the dark side of the staircase as Mr. Pickwick approached.

‘It’s very unfortunate,’ said the stranger, with a sigh.

‘Very,’ said Lowten, scribbling his name on the doorpost with his pen, and rubbing it out again with the feather. ‘Will you leave a message for him?’

‘When do you think he’ll be back?’ inquired the stranger.

‘Quite uncertain,’ replied Lowten, winking at Mr. Pickwick, as the stranger cast his eyes towards the ground.

‘You don’t think it would be of any use my waiting for him?’ said the stranger, looking wistfully into the office.

‘Oh, no, I’m sure it wouldn’t,’ replied the clerk, moving a little more into the centre of the doorway. ‘He’s certain not to be back this week, and it’s a chance whether he will be next; for when Perker once gets out of town, he’s never in a hurry to come back again.’

‘Out of town!’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘dear me, how unfortunate!’

‘Don’t go away, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Lowten, ‘I’ve got a letter for you.’ The stranger, seeming to hesitate, once more looked towards the ground, and the clerk winked slyly at Mr. Pickwick, as if to intimate that some exquisite piece of humour was going forward, though what it was Mr. Pickwick could not for the life of him divine.

‘Step in, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Lowten. ‘Well, will you leave a message, Mr. Watty, or will you call again?’

‘Ask him to be so kind as to leave out word what has been done in my business,’ said the man; ‘for God’s sake don’t neglect it, Mr. Lowten.’

‘No, no; I won’t forget it,’ replied the clerk. ‘Walk in, Mr. Pickwick. Good-morning, Mr. Watty; it’s a fine day for walking, isn’t it?’ Seeing that the stranger still lingered, he beckoned Sam Weller to follow his master in, and shut the door in his face.

‘There never was such a pestering bankrupt as that since the world began, I do believe!’ said Lowten, throwing down his pen with the air of an injured man. ‘His affairs haven’t been in Chancery quite four years yet, and I’m d——d if he don’t come worrying here twice a week. Step this way, Mr. Pickwick. Perker is in, and he’ll see you, I know. Devilish cold,’ he added pettishly, ‘standing at that door, wasting one’s time with such seedy vagabonds!’ Having very vehemently stirred a particularly large fire with a particularly small poker, the clerk led the way to his principal’s private room, and announced Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ah, my dear Sir,’ said little Mr. Perker, bustling up from his chair. ‘Well, my dear sir, and what’s the news about your matter, eh? Anything more about our friends in Freeman’s Court? They’ve not been sleeping, I know that. Ah, they’re very smart fellows; very smart, indeed.’

As the little man concluded, he took an emphatic pinch of snuff, as a tribute to the smartness of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg.

‘They are great scoundrels,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Aye, aye,’ said the little man; ‘that’s a matter of opinion, you know, and we won’t dispute about terms; because of course you can’t be expected to view these subjects with a professional eye. Well, we’ve done everything that’s necessary. I have retained Serjeant Snubbin.’

‘Is he a good man?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Good man!’ replied Perker; ‘bless your heart and soul, my dear Sir, Serjeant Snubbin is at the very top of his profession. Gets treble the business of any man in court—engaged in every case. You needn’t mention it abroad; but we say—we of the profession—that Serjeant Snubbin leads the court by the nose.’

The little man took another pinch of snuff as he made this communication, and nodded mysteriously to Mr. Pickwick.

‘They have subpoenaed my three friends,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ah! of course they would,’ replied Perker. ‘Important witnesses; saw you in a delicate situation.’

‘But she fainted of her own accord,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘She threw herself into my arms.’

‘Very likely, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker; ‘very likely and very natural. Nothing more so, my dear Sir, nothing. But who’s to prove it?’

‘They have subpoenaed my servant, too,’ said Mr. Pickwick, quitting the other point; for there Mr. Perker’s question had somewhat staggered him.

‘Sam?’ said Perker.

Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

‘Of course, my dear Sir; of course. I knew they would. I could have told you that, a month ago. You know, my dear Sir, if you will take the management of your affairs into your own hands after entrusting them to your solicitor, you must also take the consequences.’ Here Mr. Perker drew himself up with conscious dignity, and brushed some stray grains of snuff from his shirt frill.

‘And what do they want him to prove?’ asked Mr. Pickwick, after two or three minutes’ silence.

‘That you sent him up to the plaintiff ‘s to make some offer of a compromise, I suppose,’ replied Perker. ‘It don’t matter much, though; I don’t think many counsel could get a great deal out of him.’

‘I don’t think they could,’ said Mr. Pickwick, smiling, despite his vexation, at the idea of Sam’s appearance as a witness. ‘What course do we pursue?’

‘We have only one to adopt, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker; ‘cross-examine the witnesses; trust to Snubbin’s eloquence; throw dust in the eyes of the judge; throw ourselves on the jury.’

‘And suppose the verdict is against me?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Mr. Perker smiled, took a very long pinch of snuff, stirred the fire, shrugged his shoulders, and remained expressively silent.

‘You mean that in that case I must pay the damages?’ said Mr. Pickwick, who had watched this telegraphic answer with considerable sternness.

Perker gave the fire another very unnecessary poke, and said, ‘I am afraid so.’

‘Then I beg to announce to you my unalterable determination to pay no damages whatever,’ said Mr. Pickwick, most emphatically. ‘None, Perker. Not a pound, not a penny of my money, shall find its way into the pockets of Dodson and Fogg. That is my deliberate and irrevocable determination.’ Mr. Pickwick gave a heavy blow on the table before him, in confirmation of the irrevocability of his intention.

‘Very well, my dear Sir, very well,’ said Perker. ‘You know best, of course.’

‘Of course,’ replied Mr. Pickwick hastily. ‘Where does Serjeant Snubbin live?’

In Lincoln’s Inn Old Square,’ replied Perker.

‘I should like to see him,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘See Serjeant Snubbin, my dear Sir!’ rejoined Perker, in utter amazement. ‘Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir, impossible. See Serjeant Snubbin! Bless you, my dear Sir, such a thing was never heard of, without a consultation fee being previously paid, and a consultation fixed. It couldn’t be done, my dear Sir; it couldn’t be done.’

Mr. Pickwick, however, had made up his mind not only that it could be done, but that it should be done; and the consequence was, that within ten minutes after he had received the assurance that the thing was impossible, he was conducted by his solicitor into the outer office of the great Serjeant Snubbin himself.

It was an uncarpeted room of tolerable dimensions, with a large writing-table drawn up near the fire, the baize top of which had long since lost all claim to its original hue of green, and had gradually grown gray with dust and age, except where all traces of its natural colour were obliterated by ink-stains. Upon the table were numerous little bundles of papers tied with red tape; and behind it, sat an elderly clerk, whose sleek appearance and heavy gold watch-chain presented imposing indications of the extensive and lucrative practice of Mr. Serjeant Snubbin.

‘Is the Serjeant in his room, Mr. Mallard?’ inquired Perker, offering his box with all imaginable courtesy.

‘Yes, he is,’ was the reply, ‘but he’s very busy. Look here; not an opinion given yet, on any one of these cases; and an expedition fee paid with all of ‘em.’ The clerk smiled as he said this, and inhaled the pinch of snuff with a zest which seemed to be compounded of a fondness for snuff and a relish for fees.

‘Something like practice that,’ said Perker.

‘Yes,’ said the barrister’s clerk, producing his own box, and offering it with the greatest cordiality; ‘and the best of it is, that as nobody alive except myself can read the serjeant’s writing, they are obliged to wait for the opinions, when he has given them, till I have copied ‘em, ha-ha-ha!’

‘Which makes good for we know who, besides the serjeant, and draws a little more out of the clients, eh?’ said Perker; ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ At this the serjeant’s clerk laughed again—not a noisy boisterous laugh, but a silent, internal chuckle, which Mr. Pickwick disliked to hear. When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.

‘You haven’t made me out that little list of the fees that I’m in your debt, have you?’ said Perker.

‘No, I have not,’ replied the clerk.

‘I wish you would,’ said Perker. ‘Let me have them, and I’ll send you a cheque. But I suppose you’re too busy pocketing the ready money, to think of the debtors, eh? ha, ha, ha!’ This sally seemed to tickle the clerk amazingly, and he once more enjoyed a little quiet laugh to himself.

‘But, Mr. Mallard, my dear friend,’ said Perker, suddenly recovering his gravity, and drawing the great man’s great man into a Corner, by the lappel of his coat; ‘you must persuade the Serjeant to see me, and my client here.’

‘Come, come,’ said the clerk, ‘that’s not bad either. See the Serjeant! come, that’s too absurd.’ Notwithstanding the absurdity of the proposal, however, the clerk allowed himself to be gently drawn beyond the hearing of Mr. Pickwick; and after a short conversation conducted in whispers, walked softly down a little dark passage, and disappeared into the legal luminary’s sanctum, whence he shortly returned on tiptoe, and informed Mr. Perker and Mr. Pickwick that the Serjeant had been prevailed upon, in violation of all established rules and customs, to admit them at once.

Mr. Serjeant Snubbins was a lantern-faced, sallow-complexioned man, of about five-and-forty, or—as the novels say—he might be fifty. He had that dull-looking, boiled eye which is often to be seen in the heads of people who have applied themselves during many years to a weary and laborious course of study; and which would have been sufficient, without the additional eyeglass which dangled from a broad black riband round his neck, to warn a stranger that he was very near-sighted. His hair was thin and weak, which was partly attributable to his having never devoted much time to its arrangement, and partly to his having worn for five-and-twenty years the forensic wig which hung on a block beside him. The marks of hairpowder on his coat-collar, and the ill-washed and worse tied white neckerchief round his throat, showed that he had not found leisure since he left the court to make any alteration in his dress; while the slovenly style of the remainder of his costume warranted the inference that his personal appearance would not have been very much improved if he had. Books of practice, heaps of papers, and opened letters, were scattered over the table, without any attempt at order or arrangement; the furniture of the room was old and rickety; the doors of the book-case were rotting in their hinges; the dust flew out from the carpet in little clouds at every step; the blinds were yellow with age and dirt; the state of everything in the room showed, with a clearness not to be mistaken, that Mr. Serjeant Snubbin was far too much occupied with his professional pursuits to take any great heed or regard of his personal comforts.

The Serjeant was writing when his clients entered; he bowed abstractedly when Mr. Pickwick was introduced by his solicitor; and then, motioning them to a seat, put his pen carefully in the inkstand, nursed his left leg, and waited to be spoken to.

‘Mr. Pickwick is the defendant in Bardell and Pickwick, Serjeant Snubbin,’ said Perker.

‘I am retained in that, am I?’ said the Serjeant.

‘You are, Sir,’ replied Perker.

The Serjeant nodded his head, and waited for something else.

‘Mr. Pickwick was anxious to call upon you, Serjeant Snubbin,’ said Perker, ‘to state to you, before you entered upon the case, that he denies there being any ground or pretence whatever for the action against him; and that unless he came into court with clean hands, and without the most conscientious conviction that he was right in resisting the plaintiff’s demand, he would not be there at all. I believe I state your views correctly; do I not, my dear Sir?’ said the little man, turning to Mr. Pickwick.

‘Quite so,’ replied that gentleman.

Mr. Serjeant Snubbin unfolded his glasses, raised them to his eyes; and, after looking at Mr. Pickwick for a few seconds with great curiosity, turned to Mr. Perker, and said, smiling slightly as he spoke—

‘Has Mr. Pickwick a strong case?’

The attorney shrugged his shoulders.

‘Do you propose calling witnesses?’

‘No.’

The smile on the Serjeant’s countenance became more defined; he rocked his leg with increased violence; and, throwing himself back in his easy-chair, coughed dubiously.

These tokens of the Serjeant’s presentiments on the subject, slight as they were, were not lost on Mr. Pickwick. He settled the spectacles, through which he had attentively regarded such demonstrations of the barrister’s feelings as he had permitted himself to exhibit, more firmly on his nose; and said with great energy, and in utter disregard of all Mr. Perker’s admonitory winkings and frownings—

‘My wishing to wait upon you, for such a purpose as this, Sir, appears, I have no doubt, to a gentleman who sees so much of these matters as you must necessarily do, a very extraordinary circumstance.’

The Serjeant tried to look gravely at the fire, but the smile came back again.

‘Gentlemen of your profession, Sir,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, ‘see the worst side of human nature. All its disputes, all its ill-will and bad blood, rise up before you. You know from your experience of juries (I mean no disparagement to you, or them) how much depends upon effect; and you are apt to attribute to others, a desire to use, for purposes of deception and self-interest, the very instruments which you, in pure honesty and honour of purpose, and with a laudable desire to do your utmost for your client, know the temper and worth of so well, from constantly employing them yourselves. I really believe that to this circumstance may be attributed the vulgar but very general notion of your being, as a body, suspicious, distrustful, and over-cautious. Conscious as I am, sir, of the disadvantage of making such a declaration to you, under such circumstances, I have come here, because I wish you distinctly to understand, as my friend Mr. Perker has said, that I am innocent of the falsehood laid to my charge; and although I am very well aware of the inestimable value of your assistance, Sir, I must beg to add, that unless you sincerely believe this, I would rather be deprived of the aid of your talents than have the advantage of them.’

Long before the close of this address, which we are bound to say was of a very prosy character for Mr. Pickwick, the Serjeant had relapsed into a state of abstraction. After some minutes, however, during which he had reassumed his pen, he appeared to be again aware of the presence of his clients; raising his head from the paper, he said, rather snappishly—

‘Who is with me in this case?’

‘Mr. Phunky, Serjeant Snubbin,’ replied the attorney.

‘Phunky—Phunky,’ said the Serjeant, ‘I never heard the name before. He must be a very young man.’

‘Yes, he is a very young man,’ replied the attorney. ‘He was only called the other day. Let me see—he has not been at the Bar eight years yet.’

‘Ah, I thought not,’ said the Serjeant, in that sort of pitying tone in which ordinary folks would speak of a very helpless little child. ‘Mr. Mallard, send round to Mr.—Mr.—’

Phunky’s—Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn,’ interposed Perker. (Holborn Court, by the bye, is South Square now.)—‘Mr. Phunky, and say I should be glad if he’d step here, a moment.’

Mr. Mallard departed to execute his commission; and Serjeant Snubbin relapsed into abstraction until Mr. Phunky himself was introduced.

Although an infant barrister, he was a full-grown man. He had a very nervous manner, and a painful hesitation in his speech; it did not appear to be a natural defect, but seemed rather the result of timidity, arising from the consciousness of being ‘kept down’ by want of means, or interest, or connection, or impudence, as the case might be. He was overawed by the Serjeant, and profoundly courteous to the attorney.

‘I have not had the pleasure of seeing you before, Mr. Phunky,’ said Serjeant Snubbin, with haughty condescension.

Mr. Phunky bowed. He had had the pleasure of seeing the Serjeant, and of envying him too, with all a poor man’s envy, for eight years and a quarter.

‘You are with me in this case, I understand?’ said the Serjeant.

If Mr. Phunky had been a rich man, he would have instantly sent for his clerk to remind him; if he had been a wise one, he would have applied his forefinger to his forehead, and endeavoured to recollect, whether, in the multiplicity of his engagements, he had undertaken this one or not; but as he was neither rich nor wise (in this sense, at all events) he turned red, and bowed.

‘Have you read the papers, Mr. Phunky?’ inquired the Serjeant.

Here again, Mr. Phunky should have professed to have forgotten all about the merits of the case; but as he had read such papers as had been laid before him in the course of the action, and had thought of nothing else, waking or sleeping, throughout the two months during which he had been retained as Mr. Serjeant Snubbin’s junior, he turned a deeper red and bowed again.

‘This is Mr. Pickwick,’ said the Serjeant, waving his pen in the direction in which that gentleman was standing.

Mr. Phunky bowed to Mr. Pickwick, with a reverence which a first client must ever awaken; and again inclined his head towards his leader.

‘Perhaps you will take Mr. Pickwick away,’ said the Serjeant, ‘and—and—and—hear anything Mr. Pickwick may wish to communicate. We shall have a consultation, of course.’ With that hint that he had been interrupted quite long enough, Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who had been gradually growing more and more abstracted, applied his glass to his eyes for an instant, bowed slightly round, and was once more deeply immersed in the case before him, which arose out of an interminable lawsuit, originating in the act of an individual, deceased a century or so ago, who had stopped up a pathway leading from some place which nobody ever came from, to some other place which nobody ever went to.

Mr. Phunky would not hear of passing through any door until Mr. Pickwick and his solicitor had passed through before him, so it was some time before they got into the Square; and when they did reach it, they walked up and down, and held a long conference, the result of which was, that it was a very difficult matter to say how the verdict would go; that nobody could presume to calculate on the issue of an action; that it was very lucky they had prevented the other party from getting Serjeant Snubbin; and other topics of doubt and consolation, common in such a position of affairs.

Mr. Weller was then roused by his master from a sweet sleep of an hour’s duration; and, bidding adieu to Lowten, they returned to the city.






CHAPTER XXXII. DESCRIBES, FAR MORE FULLY THAN THE COURT NEWSMAN EVER DID, A BACHELOR’S PARTY, GIVEN BY MR. BOB SAWYER AT HIS LODGINGS IN THE BOROUGH

There is a repose about Lant Street, in the Borough, which sheds a gentle melancholy upon the soul. There are always a good many houses to let in the street: it is a by-street too, and its dulness is soothing. A house in Lant Street would not come within the denomination of a first-rate residence, in the strict acceptation of the term; but it is a most desirable spot nevertheless. If a man wished to abstract himself from the world—to remove himself from within the reach of temptation—to place himself beyond the possibility of any inducement to look out of the window—we should recommend him by all means go to Lant Street.

In this happy retreat are colonised a few clear-starchers, a sprinkling of journeymen bookbinders, one or two prison agents for the Insolvent Court, several small housekeepers who are employed in the Docks, a handful of mantua-makers, and a seasoning of jobbing tailors. The majority of the inhabitants either direct their energies to the letting of furnished apartments, or devote themselves to the healthful and invigorating pursuit of mangling. The chief features in the still life of the street are green shutters, lodging-bills, brass door-plates, and bell-handles; the principal specimens of animated nature, the pot-boy, the muffin youth, and the baked-potato man. The population is migratory, usually disappearing on the verge of quarter-day, and generally by night. His Majesty’s revenues are seldom collected in this happy valley; the rents are dubious; and the water communication is very frequently cut off.

Mr. Bob Sawyer embellished one side of the fire, in his first-floor front, early on the evening for which he had invited Mr. Pickwick, and Mr. Ben Allen the other. The preparations for the reception of visitors appeared to be completed. The umbrellas in the passage had been heaped into the little corner outside the back-parlour door; the bonnet and shawl of the landlady’s servant had been removed from the bannisters; there were not more than two pairs of pattens on the street-door mat; and a kitchen candle, with a very long snuff, burned cheerfully on the ledge of the staircase window. Mr. Bob Sawyer had himself purchased the spirits at a wine vaults in High Street, and had returned home preceding the bearer thereof, to preclude the possibility of their delivery at the wrong house. The punch was ready-made in a red pan in the bedroom; a little table, covered with a green baize cloth, had been borrowed from the parlour, to play at cards on; and the glasses of the establishment, together with those which had been borrowed for the occasion from the public-house, were all drawn up in a tray, which was deposited on the landing outside the door.

Notwithstanding the highly satisfactory nature of all these arrangements, there was a cloud on the countenance of Mr. Bob Sawyer, as he sat by the fireside. There was a sympathising expression, too, in the features of Mr. Ben Allen, as he gazed intently on the coals, and a tone of melancholy in his voice, as he said, after a long silence—

‘Well, it is unlucky she should have taken it in her head to turn sour, just on this occasion. She might at least have waited till to-morrow.’

‘That’s her malevolence—that’s her malevolence,’ returned Mr. Bob Sawyer vehemently. ‘She says that if I can afford to give a party I ought to be able to pay her confounded “little bill.”’

How long has it been running?’ inquired Mr. Ben Allen. A bill, by the bye, is the most extraordinary locomotive engine that the genius of man ever produced. It would keep on running during the longest lifetime, without ever once stopping of its own accord.

‘Only a quarter, and a month or so,’ replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.

Ben Allen coughed hopelessly, and directed a searching look between the two top bars of the stove.

‘It’ll be a deuced unpleasant thing if she takes it into her head to let out, when those fellows are here, won’t it?’ said Mr. Ben Allen at length.

‘Horrible,’ replied Bob Sawyer, ‘horrible.’

A low tap was heard at the room door. Mr. Bob Sawyer looked expressively at his friend, and bade the tapper come in; whereupon a dirty, slipshod girl in black cotton stockings, who might have passed for the neglected daughter of a superannuated dustman in very reduced circumstances, thrust in her head, and said—

‘Please, Mister Sawyer, Missis Raddle wants to speak to you.’

Before Mr. Bob Sawyer could return any answer, the girl suddenly disappeared with a jerk, as if somebody had given her a violent pull behind; this mysterious exit was no sooner accomplished, than there was another tap at the door—a smart, pointed tap, which seemed to say, ‘Here I am, and in I’m coming.’

Mr. Bob Sawyer glanced at his friend with a look of abject apprehension, and once more cried, ‘Come in.’

The permission was not at all necessary, for, before Mr. Bob Sawyer had uttered the words, a little, fierce woman bounced into the room, all in a tremble with passion, and pale with rage.

‘Now, Mr. Sawyer,’ said the little, fierce woman, trying to appear very calm, ‘if you’ll have the kindness to settle that little bill of mine I’ll thank you, because I’ve got my rent to pay this afternoon, and my landlord’s a-waiting below now.’ Here the little woman rubbed her hands, and looked steadily over Mr. Bob Sawyer’s head, at the wall behind him.

‘I am very sorry to put you to any inconvenience, Mrs. Raddle,’ said Bob Sawyer deferentially, ‘but—’

‘Oh, it isn’t any inconvenience,’ replied the little woman, with a shrill titter. ‘I didn’t want it particular before to-day; leastways, as it has to go to my landlord directly, it was as well for you to keep it as me. You promised me this afternoon, Mr. Sawyer, and every gentleman as has ever lived here, has kept his word, Sir, as of course anybody as calls himself a gentleman does.’ Mrs. Raddle tossed her head, bit her lips, rubbed her hands harder, and looked at the wall more steadily than ever. It was plain to see, as Mr. Bob Sawyer remarked in a style of Eastern allegory on a subsequent occasion, that she was ‘getting the steam up.’

‘I am very sorry, Mrs. Raddle,’ said Bob Sawyer, with all imaginable humility, ‘but the fact is, that I have been disappointed in the City to-day.’—Extraordinary place that City. An astonishing number of men always are getting disappointed there.

‘Well, Mr. Sawyer,’ said Mrs. Raddle, planting herself firmly on a purple cauliflower in the Kidderminster carpet, ‘and what’s that to me, Sir?’

‘I—I—have no doubt, Mrs. Raddle,’ said Bob Sawyer, blinking this last question, ‘that before the middle of next week we shall be able to set ourselves quite square, and go on, on a better system, afterwards.’

This was all Mrs. Raddle wanted. She had bustled up to the apartment of the unlucky Bob Sawyer, so bent upon going into a passion, that, in all probability, payment would have rather disappointed her than otherwise. She was in excellent order for a little relaxation of the kind, having just exchanged a few introductory compliments with Mr. R. in the front kitchen.

‘Do you suppose, Mr. Sawyer,’ said Mrs. Raddle, elevating her voice for the information of the neighbours—‘do you suppose that I’m a-going day after day to let a fellar occupy my lodgings as never thinks of paying his rent, nor even the very money laid out for the fresh butter and lump sugar that’s bought for his breakfast, and the very milk that’s took in, at the street door? Do you suppose a hard-working and industrious woman as has lived in this street for twenty year (ten year over the way, and nine year and three-quarters in this very house) has nothing else to do but to work herself to death after a parcel of lazy idle fellars, that are always smoking and drinking, and lounging, when they ought to be glad to turn their hands to anything that would help ‘em to pay their bills? Do you—’

‘My good soul,’ interposed Mr. Benjamin Allen soothingly.

‘Have the goodness to keep your observashuns to yourself, Sir, I beg,’ said Mrs. Raddle, suddenly arresting the rapid torrent of her speech, and addressing the third party with impressive slowness and solemnity. ‘I am not aweer, Sir, that you have any right to address your conversation to me. I don’t think I let these apartments to you, Sir.’

‘No, you certainly did not,’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘Very good, Sir,’ responded Mrs. Raddle, with lofty politeness. ‘Then p’raps, Sir, you’ll confine yourself to breaking the arms and legs of the poor people in the hospitals, and keep yourself to yourself, Sir, or there may be some persons here as will make you, Sir.’

‘But you are such an unreasonable woman,’ remonstrated Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘I beg your parding, young man,’ said Mrs. Raddle, in a cold perspiration of anger. ‘But will you have the goodness just to call me that again, sir?’

‘I didn’t make use of the word in any invidious sense, ma’am,’ replied Mr. Benjamin Allen, growing somewhat uneasy on his own account.

‘I beg your parding, young man,’ demanded Mrs. Raddle, in a louder and more imperative tone. ‘But who do you call a woman? Did you make that remark to me, sir?’

‘Why, bless my heart!’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘Did you apply that name to me, I ask of you, sir?’ interrupted Mrs. Raddle, with intense fierceness, throwing the door wide open.

‘Why, of course I did,’ replied Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘Yes, of course you did,’ said Mrs. Raddle, backing gradually to the door, and raising her voice to its loudest pitch, for the special behoof of Mr. Raddle in the kitchen. ‘Yes, of course you did! And everybody knows that they may safely insult me in my own ‘ouse while my husband sits sleeping downstairs, and taking no more notice than if I was a dog in the streets. He ought to be ashamed of himself (here Mrs. Raddle sobbed) to allow his wife to be treated in this way by a parcel of young cutters and carvers of live people’s bodies, that disgraces the lodgings (another sob), and leaving her exposed to all manner of abuse; a base, faint-hearted, timorous wretch, that’s afraid to come upstairs, and face the ruffinly creatures—that’s afraid—that’s afraid to come!’ Mrs. Raddle paused to listen whether the repetition of the taunt had roused her better half; and finding that it had not been successful, proceeded to descend the stairs with sobs innumerable; when there came a loud double knock at the street door; whereupon she burst into an hysterical fit of weeping, accompanied with dismal moans, which was prolonged until the knock had been repeated six times, when, in an uncontrollable burst of mental agony, she threw down all the umbrellas, and disappeared into the back parlour, closing the door after her with an awful crash.

‘Does Mr. Sawyer live here?’ said Mr. Pickwick, when the door was opened.

‘Yes,’ said the girl, ‘first floor. It’s the door straight afore you, when you gets to the top of the stairs.’ Having given this instruction, the handmaid, who had been brought up among the aboriginal inhabitants of Southwark, disappeared, with the candle in her hand, down the kitchen stairs, perfectly satisfied that she had done everything that could possibly be required of her under the circumstances.

Mr. Snodgrass, who entered last, secured the street door, after several ineffectual efforts, by putting up the chain; and the friends stumbled upstairs, where they were received by Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been afraid to go down, lest he should be waylaid by Mrs. Raddle.

‘How are you?’ said the discomfited student. ‘Glad to see you—take care of the glasses.’ This caution was addressed to Mr. Pickwick, who had put his hat in the tray.

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I beg your pardon.’

‘Don’t mention it, don’t mention it,’ said Bob Sawyer. ‘I’m rather confined for room here, but you must put up with all that, when you come to see a young bachelor. Walk in. You’ve seen this gentleman before, I think?’ Mr. Pickwick shook hands with Mr. Benjamin Allen, and his friends followed his example. They had scarcely taken their seats when there was another double knock.

‘I hope that’s Jack Hopkins!’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer. ‘Hush. Yes, it is. Come up, Jack; come up.’

A heavy footstep was heard upon the stairs, and Jack Hopkins presented himself. He wore a black velvet waistcoat, with thunder-and-lightning buttons; and a blue striped shirt, with a white false collar.

‘You’re late, Jack?’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘Been detained at Bartholomew’s,’ replied Hopkins.

‘Anything new?’

‘No, nothing particular. Rather a good accident brought into the casualty ward.’

‘What was that, sir?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Only a man fallen out of a four pair of stairs’ window; but it’s a very fair case indeed.’

‘Do you mean that the patient is in a fair way to recover?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘No,’ replied Mr. Hopkins carelessly. ‘No, I should rather say he wouldn’t. There must be a splendid operation, though, to-morrow—magnificent sight if Slasher does it.’

‘You consider Mr. Slasher a good operator?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Best alive,’ replied Hopkins. ‘Took a boy’s leg out of the socket last week—boy ate five apples and a gingerbread cake—exactly two minutes after it was all over, boy said he wouldn’t lie there to be made game of, and he’d tell his mother if they didn’t begin.’

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Pickwick, astonished.

‘Pooh! That’s nothing, that ain’t,’ said Jack Hopkins. ‘Is it, Bob?’

‘Nothing at all,’ replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.

‘By the bye, Bob,’ said Hopkins, with a scarcely perceptible glance at Mr. Pickwick’s attentive face, ‘we had a curious accident last night. A child was brought in, who had swallowed a necklace.’

‘Swallowed what, Sir?’ interrupted Mr. Pickwick.

‘A necklace,’ replied Jack Hopkins. ‘Not all at once, you know, that would be too much—you couldn’t swallow that, if the child did—eh, Mr. Pickwick? ha, ha!’ Mr. Hopkins appeared highly gratified with his own pleasantry, and continued—‘No, the way was this. Child’s parents were poor people who lived in a court. Child’s eldest sister bought a necklace—common necklace, made of large black wooden beads. Child being fond of toys, cribbed the necklace, hid it, played with it, cut the string, and swallowed a bead. Child thought it capital fun, went back next day, and swallowed another bead.’

‘Bless my heart,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what a dreadful thing! I beg your pardon, Sir. Go on.’

‘Next day, child swallowed two beads; the day after that, he treated himself to three, and so on, till in a week’s time he had got through the necklace—five-and-twenty beads in all. The sister, who was an industrious girl, and seldom treated herself to a bit of finery, cried her eyes out, at the loss of the necklace; looked high and low for it; but, I needn’t say, didn’t find it. A few days afterwards, the family were at dinner—baked shoulder of mutton, and potatoes under it—the child, who wasn’t hungry, was playing about the room, when suddenly there was heard a devil of a noise, like a small hailstorm. “Don’t do that, my boy,” said the father. “I ain’t a-doin’ nothing,” said the child. “Well, don’t do it again,” said the father. There was a short silence, and then the noise began again, worse than ever. “If you don’t mind what I say, my boy,” said the father, “you’ll find yourself in bed, in something less than a pig’s whisper.” He gave the child a shake to make him obedient, and such a rattling ensued as nobody ever heard before. “Why, damme, it’s in the child!” said the father, “he’s got the croup in the wrong place!” “No, I haven’t, father,” said the child, beginning to cry, “it’s the necklace; I swallowed it, father.”—The father caught the child up, and ran with him to the hospital; the beads in the boy’s stomach rattling all the way with the jolting; and the people looking up in the air, and down in the cellars, to see where the unusual sound came from. He’s in the hospital now,’ said Jack Hopkins, ‘and he makes such a devil of a noise when he walks about, that they’re obliged to muffle him in a watchman’s coat, for fear he should wake the patients.’

‘That’s the most extraordinary case I ever heard of,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on the table.

‘Oh, that’s nothing,’ said Jack Hopkins. ‘Is it, Bob?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Bob Sawyer.

‘Very singular things occur in our profession, I can assure you, Sir,’ said Hopkins.

‘So I should be disposed to imagine,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

Another knock at the door announced a large-headed young man in a black wig, who brought with him a scorbutic youth in a long stock. The next comer was a gentleman in a shirt emblazoned with pink anchors, who was closely followed by a pale youth with a plated watchguard. The arrival of a prim personage in clean linen and cloth boots rendered the party complete. The little table with the green baize cover was wheeled out; the first instalment of punch was brought in, in a white jug; and the succeeding three hours were devoted to Vingt-et-un at sixpence a dozen, which was only once interrupted by a slight dispute between the scorbutic youth and the gentleman with the pink anchors; in the course of which, the scorbutic youth intimated a burning desire to pull the nose of the gentleman with the emblems of hope; in reply to which, that individual expressed his decided unwillingness to accept of any ‘sauce’ on gratuitous terms, either from the irascible young gentleman with the scorbutic countenance, or any other person who was ornamented with a head.

When the last ‘natural’ had been declared, and the profit and loss account of fish and sixpences adjusted, to the satisfaction of all parties, Mr. Bob Sawyer rang for supper, and the visitors squeezed themselves into corners while it was getting ready.

It was not so easily got ready as some people may imagine. First of all, it was necessary to awaken the girl, who had fallen asleep with her face on the kitchen table; this took a little time, and, even when she did answer the bell, another quarter of an hour was consumed in fruitless endeavours to impart to her a faint and distant glimmering of reason. The man to whom the order for the oysters had been sent, had not been told to open them; it is a very difficult thing to open an oyster with a limp knife and a two-pronged fork; and very little was done in this way. Very little of the beef was done either; and the ham (which was also from the German-sausage shop round the corner) was in a similar predicament. However, there was plenty of porter in a tin can; and the cheese went a great way, for it was very strong. So upon the whole, perhaps, the supper was quite as good as such matters usually are.

After supper, another jug of punch was put upon the table, together with a paper of cigars, and a couple of bottles of spirits. Then there was an awful pause; and this awful pause was occasioned by a very common occurrence in this sort of place, but a very embarrassing one notwithstanding.

The fact is, the girl was washing the glasses. The establishment boasted four: we do not record the circumstance as at all derogatory to Mrs. Raddle, for there never was a lodging-house yet, that was not short of glasses. The landlady’s glasses were little, thin, blown-glass tumblers, and those which had been borrowed from the public-house were great, dropsical, bloated articles, each supported on a huge gouty leg. This would have been in itself sufficient to have possessed the company with the real state of affairs; but the young woman of all work had prevented the possibility of any misconception arising in the mind of any gentleman upon the subject, by forcibly dragging every man’s glass away, long before he had finished his beer, and audibly stating, despite the winks and interruptions of Mr. Bob Sawyer, that it was to be conveyed downstairs, and washed forthwith.

It is a very ill wind that blows nobody any good. The prim man in the cloth boots, who had been unsuccessfully attempting to make a joke during the whole time the round game lasted, saw his opportunity, and availed himself of it. The instant the glasses disappeared, he commenced a long story about a great public character, whose name he had forgotten, making a particularly happy reply to another eminent and illustrious individual whom he had never been able to identify. He enlarged at some length and with great minuteness upon divers collateral circumstances, distantly connected with the anecdote in hand, but for the life of him he couldn’t recollect at that precise moment what the anecdote was, although he had been in the habit of telling the story with great applause for the last ten years.

‘Dear me,’ said the prim man in the cloth boots, ‘it is a very extraordinary circumstance.’

‘I am sorry you have forgotten it,’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer, glancing eagerly at the door, as he thought he heard the noise of glasses jingling; ‘very sorry.’

‘So am I,’ responded the prim man, ‘because I know it would have afforded so much amusement. Never mind; I dare say I shall manage to recollect it, in the course of half an hour or so.’

The prim man arrived at this point just as the glasses came back, when Mr. Bob Sawyer, who had been absorbed in attention during the whole time, said he should very much like to hear the end of it, for, so far as it went, it was, without exception, the very best story he had ever heard.

The sight of the tumblers restored Bob Sawyer to a degree of equanimity which he had not possessed since his interview with his landlady. His face brightened up, and he began to feel quite convivial.

‘Now, Betsy,’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with great suavity, and dispersing, at the same time, the tumultuous little mob of glasses the girl had collected in the centre of the table—‘now, Betsy, the warm water; be brisk, there’s a good girl.’

‘You can’t have no warm water,’ replied Betsy.

‘No warm water!’ exclaimed Mr. Bob Sawyer.

‘No,’ said the girl, with a shake of the head which expressed a more decided negative than the most copious language could have conveyed. ‘Missis Raddle said you warn’t to have none.’

The surprise depicted on the countenances of his guests imparted new courage to the host.

‘Bring up the warm water instantly—instantly!’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with desperate sternness.

‘No. I can’t,’ replied the girl; ‘Missis Raddle raked out the kitchen fire afore she went to bed, and locked up the kittle.’

‘Oh, never mind; never mind. Pray don’t disturb yourself about such a trifle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, observing the conflict of Bob Sawyer’s passions, as depicted in his countenance, ‘cold water will do very well.’

‘Oh, admirably,’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

‘My landlady is subject to some slight attacks of mental derangement,’ remarked Bob Sawyer, with a ghastly smile; ‘I fear I must give her warning.’

‘No, don’t,’ said Ben Allen.

‘I fear I must,’ said Bob, with heroic firmness. ‘I’ll pay her what I owe her, and give her warning to-morrow morning.’ Poor fellow! how devoutly he wished he could!

Mr. Bob Sawyer’s heart-sickening attempts to rally under this last blow, communicated a dispiriting influence to the company, the greater part of whom, with the view of raising their spirits, attached themselves with extra cordiality to the cold brandy-and-water, the first perceptible effects of which were displayed in a renewal of hostilities between the scorbutic youth and the gentleman in the shirt. The belligerents vented their feelings of mutual contempt, for some time, in a variety of frownings and snortings, until at last the scorbutic youth felt it necessary to come to a more explicit understanding on the matter; when the following clear understanding took place.

‘Sawyer,’ said the scorbutic youth, in a loud voice.

‘Well, Noddy,’ replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.

‘I should be very sorry, Sawyer,’ said Mr. Noddy, ‘to create any unpleasantness at any friend’s table, and much less at yours, Sawyer—very; but I must take this opportunity of informing Mr. Gunter that he is no gentleman.’

‘And I should be very sorry, Sawyer, to create any disturbance in the street in which you reside,’ said Mr. Gunter, ‘but I’m afraid I shall be under the necessity of alarming the neighbours by throwing the person who has just spoken, out o’ window.’

‘What do you mean by that, sir?’ inquired Mr. Noddy.

‘What I say, Sir,’ replied Mr. Gunter.

‘I should like to see you do it, Sir,’ said Mr. Noddy.

‘You shall feel me do it in half a minute, Sir,’ replied Mr. Gunter.

‘I request that you’ll favour me with your card, Sir,’ said Mr. Noddy.

‘I’ll do nothing of the kind, Sir,’ replied Mr. Gunter.

‘Why not, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Noddy.

‘Because you’ll stick it up over your chimney-piece, and delude your visitors into the false belief that a gentleman has been to see you, Sir,’ replied Mr. Gunter.

‘Sir, a friend of mine shall wait on you in the morning,’ said Mr. Noddy.

‘Sir, I’m very much obliged to you for the caution, and I’ll leave particular directions with the servant to lock up the spoons,’ replied Mr. Gunter.

At this point the remainder of the guests interposed, and remonstrated with both parties on the impropriety of their conduct; on which Mr. Noddy begged to state that his father was quite as respectable as Mr. Gunter’s father; to which Mr. Gunter replied that his father was to the full as respectable as Mr. Noddy’s father, and that his father’s son was as good a man as Mr. Noddy, any day in the week. As this announcement seemed the prelude to a recommencement of the dispute, there was another interference on the part of the company; and a vast quantity of talking and clamouring ensued, in the course of which Mr. Noddy gradually allowed his feelings to overpower him, and professed that he had ever entertained a devoted personal attachment towards Mr. Gunter. To this Mr. Gunter replied that, upon the whole, he rather preferred Mr. Noddy to his own brother; on hearing which admission, Mr. Noddy magnanimously rose from his seat, and proffered his hand to Mr. Gunter. Mr. Gunter grasped it with affecting fervour; and everybody said that the whole dispute had been conducted in a manner which was highly honourable to both parties concerned.

‘Now,’ said Jack Hopkins, ‘just to set us going again, Bob, I don’t mind singing a song.’ And Hopkins, incited thereto by tumultuous applause, plunged himself at once into ‘The King, God bless him,’ which he sang as loud as he could, to a novel air, compounded of the ‘Bay of Biscay,’ and ‘A Frog he would.’ The chorus was the essence of the song; and, as each gentleman sang it to the tune he knew best, the effect was very striking indeed.

It was at the end of the chorus to the first verse, that Mr. Pickwick held up his hand in a listening attitude, and said, as soon as silence was restored—

‘Hush! I beg your pardon. I thought I heard somebody calling from upstairs.’

A profound silence immediately ensued; and Mr. Bob Sawyer was observed to turn pale.

‘I think I hear it now,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Have the goodness to open the door.’

The door was no sooner opened than all doubt on the subject was removed.

‘Mr. Sawyer! Mr. Sawyer!’ screamed a voice from the two-pair landing.

‘It’s my landlady,’ said Bob Sawyer, looking round him with great dismay. ‘Yes, Mrs. Raddle.’

‘What do you mean by this, Mr. Sawyer?’ replied the voice, with great shrillness and rapidity of utterance. ‘Ain’t it enough to be swindled out of one’s rent, and money lent out of pocket besides, and abused and insulted by your friends that dares to call themselves men, without having the house turned out of the window, and noise enough made to bring the fire-engines here, at two o’clock in the morning?—Turn them wretches away.’

‘You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,’ said the voice of Mr. Raddle, which appeared to proceed from beneath some distant bed-clothes.

‘Ashamed of themselves!’ said Mrs. Raddle. ‘Why don’t you go down and knock ‘em every one downstairs? You would if you was a man.’

I should if I was a dozen men, my dear,’ replied Mr. Raddle pacifically, ‘but they have the advantage of me in numbers, my dear.’

‘Ugh, you coward!’ replied Mrs. Raddle, with supreme contempt. ‘Do you mean to turn them wretches out, or not, Mr. Sawyer?’

‘They’re going, Mrs. Raddle, they’re going,’ said the miserable Bob. ‘I am afraid you’d better go,’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer to his friends. ‘I thought you were making too much noise.’

‘It’s a very unfortunate thing,’ said the prim man. ‘Just as we were getting so comfortable too!’ The prim man was just beginning to have a dawning recollection of the story he had forgotten.

‘It’s hardly to be borne,’ said the prim man, looking round. ‘Hardly to be borne, is it?’

‘Not to be endured,’ replied Jack Hopkins; ‘let’s have the other verse, Bob. Come, here goes!’

‘No, no, Jack, don’t,’ interposed Bob Sawyer; ‘it’s a capital song, but I am afraid we had better not have the other verse. They are very violent people, the people of the house.’

‘Shall I step upstairs, and pitch into the landlord?’ inquired Hopkins, ‘or keep on ringing the bell, or go and groan on the staircase? You may command me, Bob.’

‘I am very much indebted to you for your friendship and good-nature, Hopkins,’ said the wretched Mr. Bob Sawyer, ‘but I think the best plan to avoid any further dispute is for us to break up at once.’

‘Now, Mr. Sawyer,’ screamed the shrill voice of Mrs. Raddle, ‘are them brutes going?’

‘They’re only looking for their hats, Mrs. Raddle,’ said Bob; ‘they are going directly.’

‘Going!’ said Mrs. Raddle, thrusting her nightcap over the banisters just as Mr. Pickwick, followed by Mr. Tupman, emerged from the sitting-room. ‘Going! what did they ever come for?’

‘My dear ma’am,’ remonstrated Mr. Pickwick, looking up.

‘Get along with you, old wretch!’ replied Mrs. Raddle, hastily withdrawing the nightcap. ‘Old enough to be his grandfather, you willin! You’re worse than any of ‘em.’

Mr. Pickwick found it in vain to protest his innocence, so hurried downstairs into the street, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass. Mr. Ben Allen, who was dismally depressed with spirits and agitation, accompanied them as far as London Bridge, and in the course of the walk confided to Mr. Winkle, as an especially eligible person to intrust the secret to, that he was resolved to cut the throat of any gentleman, except Mr. Bob Sawyer, who should aspire to the affections of his sister Arabella. Having expressed his determination to perform this painful duty of a brother with proper firmness, he burst into tears, knocked his hat over his eyes, and, making the best of his way back, knocked double knocks at the door of the Borough Market office, and took short naps on the steps alternately, until daybreak, under the firm impression that he lived there, and had forgotten the key.

The visitors having all departed, in compliance with the rather pressing request of Mrs. Raddle, the luckless Mr. Bob Sawyer was left alone, to meditate on the probable events of to-morrow, and the pleasures of the evening.






CHAPTER XXXIII. MR. WELLER THE ELDER DELIVERS SOME CRITICAL SENTIMENTS RESPECTING LITERARY COMPOSITION; AND, ASSISTED BY HIS SON SAMUEL, PAYS A SMALL INSTALMENT OF RETALIATION TO THE ACCOUNT OF THE REVEREND GENTLEMAN WITH THE RED NOSE

The morning of the thirteenth of February, which the readers of this authentic narrative know, as well as we do, to have been the day immediately preceding that which was appointed for the trial of Mrs. Bardell’s action, was a busy time for Mr. Samuel Weller, who was perpetually engaged in travelling from the George and Vulture to Mr. Perker’s chambers and back again, from and between the hours of nine o’clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, both inclusive. Not that there was anything whatever to be done, for the consultation had taken place, and the course of proceeding to be adopted, had been finally determined on; but Mr. Pickwick being in a most extreme state of excitement, persevered in constantly sending small notes to his attorney, merely containing the inquiry, ‘Dear Perker. Is all going on well?’ to which Mr. Perker invariably forwarded the reply, ‘Dear Pickwick. As well as possible’; the fact being, as we have already hinted, that there was nothing whatever to go on, either well or ill, until the sitting of the court on the following morning.

But people who go voluntarily to law, or are taken forcibly there, for the first time, may be allowed to labour under some temporary irritation and anxiety; and Sam, with a due allowance for the frailties of human nature, obeyed all his master’s behests with that imperturbable good-humour and unruffable composure which formed one of his most striking and amiable characteristics.

Sam had solaced himself with a most agreeable little dinner, and was waiting at the bar for the glass of warm mixture in which Mr. Pickwick had requested him to drown the fatigues of his morning’s walks, when a young boy of about three feet high, or thereabouts, in a hairy cap and fustian overalls, whose garb bespoke a laudable ambition to attain in time the elevation of an hostler, entered the passage of the George and Vulture, and looked first up the stairs, and then along the passage, and then into the bar, as if in search of somebody to whom he bore a commission; whereupon the barmaid, conceiving it not improbable that the said commission might be directed to the tea or table spoons of the establishment, accosted the boy with—

‘Now, young man, what do you want?’

‘Is there anybody here, named Sam?’ inquired the youth, in a loud voice of treble quality.

‘What’s the t’other name?’ said Sam Weller, looking round.

‘How should I know?’ briskly replied the young gentleman below the hairy cap.

‘You’re a sharp boy, you are,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘only I wouldn’t show that wery fine edge too much, if I was you, in case anybody took it off. What do you mean by comin’ to a hot-el, and asking arter Sam, vith as much politeness as a vild Indian?’

‘’Cos an old gen’l’m’n told me to,’ replied the boy.

‘What old gen’l’m’n?’ inquired Sam, with deep disdain.

‘Him as drives a Ipswich coach, and uses our parlour,’ rejoined the boy. ‘He told me yesterday mornin’ to come to the George and Wultur this arternoon, and ask for Sam.’

‘It’s my father, my dear,’ said Mr. Weller, turning with an explanatory air to the young lady in the bar; ‘blessed if I think he hardly knows wot my other name is. Well, young brockiley sprout, wot then?’

‘Why then,’ said the boy, ‘you was to come to him at six o’clock to our ‘ouse, ‘cos he wants to see you—Blue Boar, Leaden’all Markit. Shall I say you’re comin’?’

‘You may wenture on that ‘ere statement, Sir,’ replied Sam. And thus empowered, the young gentleman walked away, awakening all the echoes in George Yard as he did so, with several chaste and extremely correct imitations of a drover’s whistle, delivered in a tone of peculiar richness and volume.

Mr. Weller having obtained leave of absence from Mr. Pickwick, who, in his then state of excitement and worry, was by no means displeased at being left alone, set forth, long before the appointed hour, and having plenty of time at his disposal, sauntered down as far as the Mansion House, where he paused and contemplated, with a face of great calmness and philosophy, the numerous cads and drivers of short stages who assemble near that famous place of resort, to the great terror and confusion of the old-lady population of these realms. Having loitered here, for half an hour or so, Mr. Weller turned, and began wending his way towards Leadenhall Market, through a variety of by-streets and courts. As he was sauntering away his spare time, and stopped to look at almost every object that met his gaze, it is by no means surprising that Mr. Weller should have paused before a small stationer’s and print-seller’s window; but without further explanation it does appear surprising that his eyes should have no sooner rested on certain pictures which were exposed for sale therein, than he gave a sudden start, smote his right leg with great vehemence, and exclaimed, with energy, ‘if it hadn’t been for this, I should ha’ forgot all about it, till it was too late!’

The particular picture on which Sam Weller’s eyes were fixed, as he said this, was a highly-coloured representation of a couple of human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful fire, while a male and female cannibal in modern attire, the gentleman being clad in a blue coat and white trousers, and the lady in a deep red pelisse with a parasol of the same, were approaching the meal with hungry eyes, up a serpentine gravel path leading thereunto. A decidedly indelicate young gentleman, in a pair of wings and nothing else, was depicted as superintending the cooking; a representation of the spire of the church in Langham Place, London, appeared in the distance; and the whole formed a ‘valentine,’ of which, as a written inscription in the window testified, there was a large assortment within, which the shopkeeper pledged himself to dispose of, to his countrymen generally, at the reduced rate of one-and-sixpence each.

‘I should ha’ forgot it; I should certainly ha’ forgot it!’ said Sam; so saying, he at once stepped into the stationer’s shop, and requested to be served with a sheet of the best gilt-edged letter-paper, and a hard-nibbed pen which could be warranted not to splutter. These articles having been promptly supplied, he walked on direct towards Leadenhall Market at a good round pace, very different from his recent lingering one. Looking round him, he there beheld a signboard on which the painter’s art had delineated something remotely resembling a cerulean elephant with an aquiline nose in lieu of trunk. Rightly conjecturing that this was the Blue Boar himself, he stepped into the house, and inquired concerning his parent.

‘He won’t be here this three-quarters of an hour or more,’ said the young lady who superintended the domestic arrangements of the Blue Boar.

‘Wery good, my dear,’ replied Sam. ‘Let me have nine-penn’oth o’ brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, will you, miss?’

The brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, having been carried into the little parlour, and the young lady having carefully flattened down the coals to prevent their blazing, and carried away the poker to preclude the possibility of the fire being stirred, without the full privity and concurrence of the Blue Boar being first had and obtained, Sam Weller sat himself down in a box near the stove, and pulled out the sheet of gilt-edged letter-paper, and the hard-nibbed pen. Then looking carefully at the pen to see that there were no hairs in it, and dusting down the table, so that there might be no crumbs of bread under the paper, Sam tucked up the cuffs of his coat, squared his elbows, and composed himself to write.

To ladies and gentlemen who are not in the habit of devoting themselves practically to the science of penmanship, writing a letter is no very easy task; it being always considered necessary in such cases for the writer to recline his head on his left arm, so as to place his eyes as nearly as possible on a level with the paper, and, while glancing sideways at the letters he is constructing, to form with his tongue imaginary characters to correspond. These motions, although unquestionably of the greatest assistance to original composition, retard in some degree the progress of the writer; and Sam had unconsciously been a full hour and a half writing words in small text, smearing out wrong letters with his little finger, and putting in new ones which required going over very often to render them visible through the old blots, when he was roused by the opening of the door and the entrance of his parent.

‘Vell, Sammy,’ said the father.

‘Vell, my Prooshan Blue,’ responded the son, laying down his pen. ‘What’s the last bulletin about mother-in-law?’

‘Mrs. Veller passed a very good night, but is uncommon perwerse, and unpleasant this mornin’. Signed upon oath, Tony Veller, Esquire. That’s the last vun as was issued, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, untying his shawl.

‘No better yet?’ inquired Sam.

‘All the symptoms aggerawated,’ replied Mr. Weller, shaking his head. ‘But wot’s that, you’re a-doin’ of? Pursuit of knowledge under difficulties, Sammy?’

‘I’ve done now,’ said Sam, with slight embarrassment; ‘I’ve been a-writin’.’

‘So I see,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Not to any young ‘ooman, I hope, Sammy?’

‘Why, it’s no use a-sayin’ it ain’t,’ replied Sam; ‘it’s a walentine.’

‘A what!’ exclaimed Mr. Weller, apparently horror-stricken by the word.

‘A walentine,’ replied Sam.

‘Samivel, Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, in reproachful accents, ‘I didn’t think you’d ha’ done it. Arter the warnin’ you’ve had o’ your father’s wicious propensities; arter all I’ve said to you upon this here wery subject; arter actiwally seein’ and bein’ in the company o’ your own mother-in-law, vich I should ha’ thought wos a moral lesson as no man could never ha’ forgotten to his dyin’ day! I didn’t think you’d ha’ done it, Sammy, I didn’t think you’d ha’ done it!’ These reflections were too much for the good old man. He raised Sam’s tumbler to his lips and drank off its contents.

‘Wot’s the matter now?’ said Sam.

‘Nev’r mind, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘it’ll be a wery agonisin’ trial to me at my time of life, but I’m pretty tough, that’s vun consolation, as the wery old turkey remarked wen the farmer said he wos afeerd he should be obliged to kill him for the London market.’

‘Wot’ll be a trial?’ inquired Sam.

‘To see you married, Sammy—to see you a dilluded wictim, and thinkin’ in your innocence that it’s all wery capital,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘It’s a dreadful trial to a father’s feelin’s, that ‘ere, Sammy—’

‘Nonsense,’ said Sam. ‘I ain’t a-goin’ to get married, don’t you fret yourself about that; I know you’re a judge of these things. Order in your pipe and I’ll read you the letter. There!’

We cannot distinctly say whether it was the prospect of the pipe, or the consolatory reflection that a fatal disposition to get married ran in the family, and couldn’t be helped, which calmed Mr. Weller’s feelings, and caused his grief to subside. We should be rather disposed to say that the result was attained by combining the two sources of consolation, for he repeated the second in a low tone, very frequently; ringing the bell meanwhile, to order in the first. He then divested himself of his upper coat; and lighting the pipe and placing himself in front of the fire with his back towards it, so that he could feel its full heat, and recline against the mantel-piece at the same time, turned towards Sam, and, with a countenance greatly mollified by the softening influence of tobacco, requested him to ‘fire away.’

Sam dipped his pen into the ink to be ready for any corrections, and began with a very theatrical air—

‘“Lovely—“’

‘Stop,’ said Mr. Weller, ringing the bell. ‘A double glass o’ the inwariable, my dear.’

‘Very well, Sir,’ replied the girl; who with great quickness appeared, vanished, returned, and disappeared.

‘They seem to know your ways here,’ observed Sam.

‘Yes,’ replied his father, ‘I’ve been here before, in my time. Go on, Sammy.’

‘“Lovely creetur,”’ repeated Sam.

‘’Tain’t in poetry, is it?’ interposed his father.

‘No, no,’ replied Sam.

‘Wery glad to hear it,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Poetry’s unnat’ral; no man ever talked poetry ‘cept a beadle on boxin’-day, or Warren’s blackin’, or Rowland’s oil, or some of them low fellows; never you let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy. Begin agin, Sammy.’

Mr. Weller resumed his pipe with critical solemnity, and Sam once more commenced, and read as follows:

‘“Lovely creetur I feel myself a damned—“’

That ain’t proper,’ said Mr. Weller, taking his pipe from his mouth.

‘No; it ain’t “damned,”’ observed Sam, holding the letter up to the light, ‘it’s “shamed,” there’s a blot there—“I feel myself ashamed.”’

‘Wery good,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Go on.’

‘Feel myself ashamed, and completely cir—’ I forget what this here word is,’ said Sam, scratching his head with the pen, in vain attempts to remember.

‘Why don’t you look at it, then?’ inquired Mr. Weller.

‘So I am a-lookin’ at it,’ replied Sam, ‘but there’s another blot. Here’s a “c,” and a “i,” and a “d.”’

‘Circumwented, p’raps,’ suggested Mr. Weller.

‘No, it ain’t that,’ said Sam, ‘“circumscribed”; that’s it.’

‘That ain’t as good a word as “circumwented,” Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller gravely.

‘Think not?’ said Sam.

‘Nothin’ like it,’ replied his father.

‘But don’t you think it means more?’ inquired Sam.

‘Vell p’raps it’s a more tenderer word,’ said Mr. Weller, after a few moments’ reflection. ‘Go on, Sammy.’

‘“Feel myself ashamed and completely circumscribed in a-dressin’ of you, for you are a nice gal and nothin’ but it.”’

‘That’s a wery pretty sentiment,’ said the elder Mr. Weller, removing his pipe to make way for the remark.

‘Yes, I think it is rayther good,’ observed Sam, highly flattered.

‘Wot I like in that ‘ere style of writin’,’ said the elder Mr. Weller, ‘is, that there ain’t no callin’ names in it—no Wenuses, nor nothin’ o’ that kind. Wot’s the good o’ callin’ a young ‘ooman a Wenus or a angel, Sammy?’

‘Ah! what, indeed?’ replied Sam.

‘You might jist as well call her a griffin, or a unicorn, or a king’s arms at once, which is wery well known to be a collection o’ fabulous animals,’ added Mr. Weller.

‘Just as well,’ replied Sam.

‘Drive on, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller.

Sam complied with the request, and proceeded as follows; his father continuing to smoke, with a mixed expression of wisdom and complacency, which was particularly edifying.

‘“Afore I see you, I thought all women was alike.”’

‘So they are,’ observed the elder Mr. Weller parenthetically.

‘“But now,”’ continued Sam, ‘“now I find what a reg’lar soft-headed, inkred’lous turnip I must ha’ been; for there ain’t nobody like you, though I like you better than nothin’ at all.” I thought it best to make that rayther strong,’ said Sam, looking up.

Mr. Weller nodded approvingly, and Sam resumed.

‘“So I take the privilidge of the day, Mary, my dear—as the gen’l’m’n in difficulties did, ven he valked out of a Sunday—to tell you that the first and only time I see you, your likeness was took on my hart in much quicker time and brighter colours than ever a likeness was took by the profeel macheen (wich p’raps you may have heerd on Mary my dear) altho it does finish a portrait and put the frame and glass on complete, with a hook at the end to hang it up by, and all in two minutes and a quarter.”’

‘I am afeerd that werges on the poetical, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller dubiously.

‘No, it don’t,’ replied Sam, reading on very quickly, to avoid contesting the point—

‘“Except of me Mary my dear as your walentine and think over what I’ve said.—My dear Mary I will now conclude.” That’s all,’ said Sam.

‘That’s rather a Sudden pull-up, ain’t it, Sammy?’ inquired Mr. Weller.

‘Not a bit on it,’ said Sam; ‘she’ll vish there wos more, and that’s the great art o’ letter-writin’.’

‘Well,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘there’s somethin’ in that; and I wish your mother-in-law ‘ud only conduct her conwersation on the same gen-teel principle. Ain’t you a-goin’ to sign it?’

‘That’s the difficulty,’ said Sam; ‘I don’t know what to sign it.’

‘Sign it—“Veller”,’ said the oldest surviving proprietor of that name.

‘Won’t do,’ said Sam. ‘Never sign a walentine with your own name.’

‘Sign it “Pickwick,” then,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘it’s a wery good name, and a easy one to spell.’

The wery thing,’ said Sam. ‘I could end with a werse; what do you think?’

‘I don’t like it, Sam,’ rejoined Mr. Weller. ‘I never know’d a respectable coachman as wrote poetry, ‘cept one, as made an affectin’ copy o’ werses the night afore he was hung for a highway robbery; and he wos only a Cambervell man, so even that’s no rule.’

But Sam was not to be dissuaded from the poetical idea that had occurred to him, so he signed the letter—

     ‘Your love-sick
       Pickwick.’ 

And having folded it, in a very intricate manner, squeezed a downhill direction in one corner: ‘To Mary, Housemaid, at Mr. Nupkins’s, Mayor’s, Ipswich, Suffolk’; and put it into his pocket, wafered, and ready for the general post. This important business having been transacted, Mr. Weller the elder proceeded to open that, on which he had summoned his son.

‘The first matter relates to your governor, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘He’s a-goin’ to be tried to-morrow, ain’t he?’

‘The trial’s a-comin’ on,’ replied Sam.

‘Vell,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘Now I s’pose he’ll want to call some witnesses to speak to his character, or p’rhaps to prove a alleybi. I’ve been a-turnin’ the bis’ness over in my mind, and he may make his-self easy, Sammy. I’ve got some friends as’ll do either for him, but my adwice ‘ud be this here—never mind the character, and stick to the alleybi. Nothing like a alleybi, Sammy, nothing.’ Mr. Weller looked very profound as he delivered this legal opinion; and burying his nose in his tumbler, winked over the top thereof, at his astonished son.

‘Why, what do you mean?’ said Sam; ‘you don’t think he’s a-goin’ to be tried at the Old Bailey, do you?’

‘That ain’t no part of the present consideration, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Verever he’s a-goin’ to be tried, my boy, a alleybi’s the thing to get him off. Ve got Tom Vildspark off that ‘ere manslaughter, with a alleybi, ven all the big vigs to a man said as nothing couldn’t save him. And my ‘pinion is, Sammy, that if your governor don’t prove a alleybi, he’ll be what the Italians call reg’larly flummoxed, and that’s all about it.’

As the elder Mr. Weller entertained a firm and unalterable conviction that the Old Bailey was the supreme court of judicature in this country, and that its rules and forms of proceeding regulated and controlled the practice of all other courts of justice whatsoever, he totally disregarded the assurances and arguments of his son, tending to show that the alibi was inadmissible; and vehemently protested that Mr. Pickwick was being ‘wictimised.’ Finding that it was of no use to discuss the matter further, Sam changed the subject, and inquired what the second topic was, on which his revered parent wished to consult him.

‘That’s a pint o’ domestic policy, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘This here Stiggins—’

‘Red-nosed man?’ inquired Sam.

‘The wery same,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘This here red-nosed man, Sammy, wisits your mother-in-law vith a kindness and constancy I never see equalled. He’s sitch a friend o’ the family, Sammy, that wen he’s avay from us, he can’t be comfortable unless he has somethin’ to remember us by.’

‘And I’d give him somethin’ as ‘ud turpentine and beeswax his memory for the next ten years or so, if I wos you,’ interposed Sam.

‘Stop a minute,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘I wos a-going to say, he always brings now, a flat bottle as holds about a pint and a half, and fills it vith the pine-apple rum afore he goes avay.’

‘And empties it afore he comes back, I s’pose?’ said Sam.

‘Clean!’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘never leaves nothin’ in it but the cork and the smell; trust him for that, Sammy. Now, these here fellows, my boy, are a-goin’ to-night to get up the monthly meetin’ o’ the Brick Lane Branch o’ the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association. Your mother-in-law wos a-goin’, Sammy, but she’s got the rheumatics, and can’t; and I, Sammy—I’ve got the two tickets as wos sent her.’ Mr. Weller communicated this secret with great glee, and winked so indefatigably after doing so, that Sam began to think he must have got the Tic Doloureux in his right eyelid.

‘Well?’ said that young gentleman.

‘Well,’ continued his progenitor, looking round him very cautiously, ‘you and I’ll go, punctiwal to the time. The deputy-shepherd won’t, Sammy; the deputy-shepherd won’t.’ Here Mr. Weller was seized with a paroxysm of chuckles, which gradually terminated in as near an approach to a choke as an elderly gentleman can, with safety, sustain.

‘Well, I never see sitch an old ghost in all my born days,’ exclaimed Sam, rubbing the old gentleman’s back, hard enough to set him on fire with the friction. ‘What are you a-laughin’ at, corpilence?’

‘Hush! Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, looking round him with increased caution, and speaking in a whisper. ‘Two friends o’ mine, as works the Oxford Road, and is up to all kinds o’ games, has got the deputy-shepherd safe in tow, Sammy; and ven he does come to the Ebenezer Junction (vich he’s sure to do: for they’ll see him to the door, and shove him in, if necessary), he’ll be as far gone in rum-and-water, as ever he wos at the Markis o’ Granby, Dorkin’, and that’s not sayin’ a little neither.’ And with this, Mr. Weller once more laughed immoderately, and once more relapsed into a state of partial suffocation, in consequence.

Nothing could have been more in accordance with Sam Weller’s feelings than the projected exposure of the real propensities and qualities of the red-nosed man; and it being very near the appointed hour of meeting, the father and son took their way at once to Brick Lane, Sam not forgetting to drop his letter into a general post-office as they walked along.

The monthly meetings of the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association were held in a large room, pleasantly and airily situated at the top of a safe and commodious ladder. The president was the straight-walking Mr. Anthony Humm, a converted fireman, now a schoolmaster, and occasionally an itinerant preacher; and the secretary was Mr. Jonas Mudge, chandler’s shopkeeper, an enthusiastic and disinterested vessel, who sold tea to the members. Previous to the commencement of business, the ladies sat upon forms, and drank tea, till such time as they considered it expedient to leave off; and a large wooden money-box was conspicuously placed upon the green baize cloth of the business-table, behind which the secretary stood, and acknowledged, with a gracious smile, every addition to the rich vein of copper which lay concealed within.

On this particular occasion the women drank tea to a most alarming extent; greatly to the horror of Mr. Weller, senior, who, utterly regardless of all Sam’s admonitory nudgings, stared about him in every direction with the most undisguised astonishment.

‘Sammy,’ whispered Mr. Weller, ‘if some o’ these here people don’t want tappin’ to-morrow mornin’, I ain’t your father, and that’s wot it is. Why, this here old lady next me is a-drowndin’ herself in tea.’

Be quiet, can’t you?’ murmured Sam.

‘Sam,’ whispered Mr. Weller, a moment afterwards, in a tone of deep agitation, ‘mark my vords, my boy. If that ‘ere secretary fellow keeps on for only five minutes more, he’ll blow hisself up with toast and water.’

‘Well, let him, if he likes,’ replied Sam; ‘it ain’t no bis’ness o’ yourn.’

‘If this here lasts much longer, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, in the same low voice, ‘I shall feel it my duty, as a human bein’, to rise and address the cheer. There’s a young ‘ooman on the next form but two, as has drunk nine breakfast cups and a half; and she’s a-swellin’ wisibly before my wery eyes.’

There is little doubt that Mr. Weller would have carried his benevolent intention into immediate execution, if a great noise, occasioned by putting up the cups and saucers, had not very fortunately announced that the tea-drinking was over. The crockery having been removed, the table with the green baize cover was carried out into the centre of the room, and the business of the evening was commenced by a little emphatic man, with a bald head and drab shorts, who suddenly rushed up the ladder, at the imminent peril of snapping the two little legs incased in the drab shorts, and said—

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I move our excellent brother, Mr. Anthony Humm, into the chair.’

The ladies waved a choice selection of pocket-handkerchiefs at this proposition; and the impetuous little man literally moved Mr. Humm into the chair, by taking him by the shoulders and thrusting him into a mahogany-frame which had once represented that article of furniture. The waving of handkerchiefs was renewed; and Mr. Humm, who was a sleek, white-faced man, in a perpetual perspiration, bowed meekly, to the great admiration of the females, and formally took his seat. Silence was then proclaimed by the little man in the drab shorts, and Mr. Humm rose and said—That, with the permission of his Brick Lane Branch brothers and sisters, then and there present, the secretary would read the report of the Brick Lane Branch committee; a proposition which was again received with a demonstration of pocket-handkerchiefs.

The secretary having sneezed in a very impressive manner, and the cough which always seizes an assembly, when anything particular is going to be done, having been duly performed, the following document was read:

‘REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE BRICK LANE BRANCH OF THE UNITED GRAND JUNCTION EBENEZER TEMPERANCE ASSOCIATION

‘Your committee have pursued their grateful labours during the past month, and have the unspeakable pleasure of reporting the following additional cases of converts to Temperance.

‘H. Walker, tailor, wife, and two children. When in better circumstances, owns to having been in the constant habit of drinking ale and beer; says he is not certain whether he did not twice a week, for twenty years, taste “dog’s nose,” which your committee find upon inquiry, to be compounded of warm porter, moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg (a groan, and ‘So it is!’ from an elderly female). Is now out of work and penniless; thinks it must be the porter (cheers) or the loss of the use of his right hand; is not certain which, but thinks it very likely that, if he had drunk nothing but water all his life, his fellow-workman would never have stuck a rusty needle in him, and thereby occasioned his accident (tremendous cheering). Has nothing but cold water to drink, and never feels thirsty (great applause).

‘Betsy Martin, widow, one child, and one eye. Goes out charing and washing, by the day; never had more than one eye, but knows her mother drank bottled stout, and shouldn’t wonder if that caused it (immense cheering). Thinks it not impossible that if she had always abstained from spirits she might have had two eyes by this time (tremendous applause). Used, at every place she went to, to have eighteen-pence a day, a pint of porter, and a glass of spirits; but since she became a member of the Brick Lane Branch, has always demanded three-and-sixpence (the announcement of this most interesting fact was received with deafening enthusiasm).

‘Henry Beller was for many years toast-master at various corporation dinners, during which time he drank a great deal of foreign wine; may sometimes have carried a bottle or two home with him; is not quite certain of that, but is sure if he did, that he drank the contents. Feels very low and melancholy, is very feverish, and has a constant thirst upon him; thinks it must be the wine he used to drink (cheers). Is out of employ now; and never touches a drop of foreign wine by any chance (tremendous plaudits).

‘Thomas Burton is purveyor of cat’s meat to the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, and several members of the Common Council (the announcement of this gentleman’s name was received with breathless interest). Has a wooden leg; finds a wooden leg expensive, going over the stones; used to wear second-hand wooden legs, and drink a glass of hot gin-and-water regularly every night—sometimes two (deep sighs). Found the second-hand wooden legs split and rot very quickly; is firmly persuaded that their constitution was undermined by the gin-and-water (prolonged cheering). Buys new wooden legs now, and drinks nothing but water and weak tea. The new legs last twice as long as the others used to do, and he attributes this solely to his temperate habits (triumphant cheers).’

Anthony Humm now moved that the assembly do regale itself with a song. With a view to their rational and moral enjoyment, Brother Mordlin had adapted the beautiful words of ‘Who hasn’t heard of a Jolly Young Waterman?’ to the tune of the Old Hundredth, which he would request them to join him in singing (great applause). He might take that opportunity of expressing his firm persuasion that the late Mr. Dibdin, seeing the errors of his former life, had written that song to show the advantages of abstinence. It was a temperance song (whirlwinds of cheers). The neatness of the young man’s attire, the dexterity of his feathering, the enviable state of mind which enabled him in the beautiful words of the poet, to

  ‘Row along, thinking of nothing at all,’ 

all combined to prove that he must have been a water-drinker (cheers). Oh, what a state of virtuous jollity! (rapturous cheering). And what was the young man’s reward? Let all young men present mark this:

  ‘The maidens all flocked to his boat so readily.’ 

(Loud cheers, in which the ladies joined.) What a bright example! The sisterhood, the maidens, flocking round the young waterman, and urging him along the stream of duty and of temperance. But, was it the maidens of humble life only, who soothed, consoled, and supported him? No!

  ‘He was always first oars with the fine city ladies.’ 

(Immense cheering.) The soft sex to a man—he begged pardon, to a female—rallied round the young waterman, and turned with disgust from the drinker of spirits (cheers). The Brick Lane Branch brothers were watermen (cheers and laughter). That room was their boat; that audience were the maidens; and he (Mr. Anthony Humm), however unworthily, was ‘first oars’ (unbounded applause).

‘Wot does he mean by the soft sex, Sammy?’ inquired Mr. Weller, in a whisper.

‘The womin,’ said Sam, in the same tone.

‘He ain’t far out there, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘they must be a soft sex—a wery soft sex, indeed—if they let themselves be gammoned by such fellers as him.’

Any further observations from the indignant old gentleman were cut short by the announcement of the song, which Mr. Anthony Humm gave out two lines at a time, for the information of such of his hearers as were unacquainted with the legend. While it was being sung, the little man with the drab shorts disappeared; he returned immediately on its conclusion, and whispered Mr. Anthony Humm, with a face of the deepest importance.

‘My friends,’ said Mr. Humm, holding up his hand in a deprecatory manner, to bespeak the silence of such of the stout old ladies as were yet a line or two behind; ‘my friends, a delegate from the Dorking Branch of our society, Brother Stiggins, attends below.’

Out came the pocket-handkerchiefs again, in greater force than ever; for Mr. Stiggins was excessively popular among the female constituency of Brick Lane.

‘He may approach, I think,’ said Mr. Humm, looking round him, with a fat smile. ‘Brother Tadger, let him come forth and greet us.’

The little man in the drab shorts who answered to the name of Brother Tadger, bustled down the ladder with great speed, and was immediately afterwards heard tumbling up with the Reverend Mr. Stiggins.

‘He’s a-comin’, Sammy,’ whispered Mr. Weller, purple in the countenance with suppressed laughter.

‘Don’t say nothin’ to me,’ replied Sam, ‘for I can’t bear it. He’s close to the door. I hear him a-knockin’ his head again the lath and plaster now.’

As Sam Weller spoke, the little door flew open, and Brother Tadger appeared, closely followed by the Reverend Mr. Stiggins, who no sooner entered, than there was a great clapping of hands, and stamping of feet, and flourishing of handkerchiefs; to all of which manifestations of delight, Brother Stiggins returned no other acknowledgment than staring with a wild eye, and a fixed smile, at the extreme top of the wick of the candle on the table, swaying his body to and fro, meanwhile, in a very unsteady and uncertain manner.

‘Are you unwell, Brother Stiggins?’ whispered Mr. Anthony Humm.

‘I am all right, Sir,’ replied Mr. Stiggins, in a tone in which ferocity was blended with an extreme thickness of utterance; ‘I am all right, Sir.’

‘Oh, very well,’ rejoined Mr. Anthony Humm, retreating a few paces.

‘I believe no man here has ventured to say that I am not all right, Sir?’ said Mr. Stiggins.

‘Oh, certainly not,’ said Mr. Humm.

‘I should advise him not to, Sir; I should advise him not,’ said Mr. Stiggins.

By this time the audience were perfectly silent, and waited with some anxiety for the resumption of business.

‘Will you address the meeting, brother?’ said Mr. Humm, with a smile of invitation.

‘No, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Stiggins; ‘No, sir. I will not, sir.’

The meeting looked at each other with raised eyelids; and a murmur of astonishment ran through the room.

‘It’s my opinion, sir,’ said Mr. Stiggins, unbuttoning his coat, and speaking very loudly—‘it’s my opinion, sir, that this meeting is drunk, sir. Brother Tadger, sir!’ said Mr. Stiggins, suddenly increasing in ferocity, and turning sharp round on the little man in the drab shorts, ‘you are drunk, sir!’ With this, Mr. Stiggins, entertaining a praiseworthy desire to promote the sobriety of the meeting, and to exclude therefrom all improper characters, hit Brother Tadger on the summit of the nose with such unerring aim, that the drab shorts disappeared like a flash of lightning. Brother Tadger had been knocked, head first, down the ladder.

Upon this, the women set up a loud and dismal screaming; and rushing in small parties before their favourite brothers, flung their arms around them to preserve them from danger. An instance of affection, which had nearly proved fatal to Humm, who, being extremely popular, was all but suffocated, by the crowd of female devotees that hung about his neck, and heaped caresses upon him. The greater part of the lights were quickly put out, and nothing but noise and confusion resounded on all sides.

‘Now, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, taking off his greatcoat with much deliberation, ‘just you step out, and fetch in a watchman.’

‘And wot are you a-goin’ to do, the while?’ inquired Sam.

‘Never you mind me, Sammy,’ replied the old gentleman; ‘I shall ockipy myself in havin’ a small settlement with that ‘ere Stiggins.’ Before Sam could interfere to prevent it, his heroic parent had penetrated into a remote corner of the room, and attacked the Reverend Mr. Stiggins with manual dexterity.

‘Come off!’ said Sam.

‘Come on!’ cried Mr. Weller; and without further invitation he gave the Reverend Mr. Stiggins a preliminary tap on the head, and began dancing round him in a buoyant and cork-like manner, which in a gentleman at his time of life was a perfect marvel to behold.

Finding all remonstrances unavailing, Sam pulled his hat firmly on, threw his father’s coat over his arm, and taking the old man round the waist, forcibly dragged him down the ladder, and into the street; never releasing his hold, or permitting him to stop, until they reached the corner. As they gained it, they could hear the shouts of the populace, who were witnessing the removal of the Reverend Mr. Stiggins to strong lodgings for the night, and could hear the noise occasioned by the dispersion in various directions of the members of the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association.






CHAPTER XXXIV. IS WHOLLY DEVOTED TO A FULL AND FAITHFUL REPORT OF THE MEMORABLE TRIAL OF BARDELL AGAINST PICKWICK

Iwonder what the foreman of the jury, whoever he’ll be, has got for breakfast,’ said Mr. Snodgrass, by way of keeping up a conversation on the eventful morning of the fourteenth of February.

‘Ah!’ said Perker, ‘I hope he’s got a good one.’

Why so?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Highly important—very important, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker. ‘A good, contented, well-breakfasted juryman is a capital thing to get hold of. Discontented or hungry jurymen, my dear sir, always find for the plaintiff.’

‘Bless my heart,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking very blank, ‘what do they do that for?’

‘Why, I don’t know,’ replied the little man coolly; ‘saves time, I suppose. If it’s near dinner-time, the foreman takes out his watch when the jury has retired, and says, “Dear me, gentlemen, ten minutes to five, I declare! I dine at five, gentlemen.” “So do I,” says everybody else, except two men who ought to have dined at three and seem more than half disposed to stand out in consequence. The foreman smiles, and puts up his watch:—“Well, gentlemen, what do we say, plaintiff or defendant, gentlemen? I rather think, so far as I am concerned, gentlemen,—I say, I rather think—but don’t let that influence you—I rather think the plaintiff’s the man.” Upon this, two or three other men are sure to say that they think so too—as of course they do; and then they get on very unanimously and comfortably. Ten minutes past nine!’ said the little man, looking at his watch. ‘Time we were off, my dear sir; breach of promise trial-court is generally full in such cases. You had better ring for a coach, my dear sir, or we shall be rather late.’

Mr. Pickwick immediately rang the bell, and a coach having been procured, the four Pickwickians and Mr. Perker ensconced themselves therein, and drove to Guildhall; Sam Weller, Mr. Lowten, and the blue bag, following in a cab.

‘Lowten,’ said Perker, when they reached the outer hall of the court, ‘put Mr. Pickwick’s friends in the students’ box; Mr. Pickwick himself had better sit by me. This way, my dear sir, this way.’ Taking Mr. Pickwick by the coat sleeve, the little man led him to the low seat just beneath the desks of the King’s Counsel, which is constructed for the convenience of attorneys, who from that spot can whisper into the ear of the leading counsel in the case, any instructions that may be necessary during the progress of the trial. The occupants of this seat are invisible to the great body of spectators, inasmuch as they sit on a much lower level than either the barristers or the audience, whose seats are raised above the floor. Of course they have their backs to both, and their faces towards the judge.

‘That’s the witness-box, I suppose?’ said Mr. Pickwick, pointing to a kind of pulpit, with a brass rail, on his left hand.

‘That’s the witness-box, my dear sir,’ replied Perker, disinterring a quantity of papers from the blue bag, which Lowten had just deposited at his feet.

‘And that,’ said Mr. Pickwick, pointing to a couple of enclosed seats on his right, ‘that’s where the jurymen sit, is it not?’

‘The identical place, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker, tapping the lid of his snuff-box.

Mr. Pickwick stood up in a state of great agitation, and took a glance at the court. There were already a pretty large sprinkling of spectators in the gallery, and a numerous muster of gentlemen in wigs, in the barristers’ seats, who presented, as a body, all that pleasing and extensive variety of nose and whisker for which the Bar of England is so justly celebrated. Such of the gentlemen as had a brief to carry, carried it in as conspicuous a manner as possible, and occasionally scratched their noses therewith, to impress the fact more strongly on the observation of the spectators. Other gentlemen, who had no briefs to show, carried under their arms goodly octavos, with a red label behind, and that under-done-pie-crust-coloured cover, which is technically known as ‘law calf.’ Others, who had neither briefs nor books, thrust their hands into their pockets, and looked as wise as they conveniently could; others, again, moved here and there with great restlessness and earnestness of manner, content to awaken thereby the admiration and astonishment of the uninitiated strangers. The whole, to the great wonderment of Mr. Pickwick, were divided into little groups, who were chatting and discussing the news of the day in the most unfeeling manner possible—just as if no trial at all were coming on.

A bow from Mr. Phunky, as he entered, and took his seat behind the row appropriated to the King’s Counsel, attracted Mr. Pickwick’s attention; and he had scarcely returned it, when Mr. Serjeant Snubbin appeared, followed by Mr. Mallard, who half hid the Serjeant behind a large crimson bag, which he placed on his table, and, after shaking hands with Perker, withdrew. Then there entered two or three more Serjeants; and among them, one with a fat body and a red face, who nodded in a friendly manner to Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, and said it was a fine morning.

‘Who’s that red-faced man, who said it was a fine morning, and nodded to our counsel?’ whispered Mr. Pickwick.

‘Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz,’ replied Perker. ‘He’s opposed to us; he leads on the other side. That gentleman behind him is Mr. Skimpin, his junior.’

Mr. Pickwick was on the point of inquiring, with great abhorrence of the man’s cold-blooded villainy, how Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, who was counsel for the opposite party, dared to presume to tell Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who was counsel for him, that it was a fine morning, when he was interrupted by a general rising of the barristers, and a loud cry of ‘Silence!’ from the officers of the court. Looking round, he found that this was caused by the entrance of the judge.

Mr. Justice Stareleigh (who sat in the absence of the Chief Justice, occasioned by indisposition) was a most particularly short man, and so fat, that he seemed all face and waistcoat. He rolled in, upon two little turned legs, and having bobbed gravely to the Bar, who bobbed gravely to him, put his little legs underneath his table, and his little three-cornered hat upon it; and when Mr. Justice Stareleigh had done this, all you could see of him was two queer little eyes, one broad pink face, and somewhere about half of a big and very comical-looking wig.

The judge had no sooner taken his seat, than the officer on the floor of the court called out ‘Silence!’ in a commanding tone, upon which another officer in the gallery cried ‘Silence!’ in an angry manner, whereupon three or four more ushers shouted ‘Silence!’ in a voice of indignant remonstrance. This being done, a gentleman in black, who sat below the judge, proceeded to call over the names of the jury; and after a great deal of bawling, it was discovered that only ten special jurymen were present. Upon this, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz prayed a tales; the gentleman in black then proceeded to press into the special jury, two of the common jurymen; and a greengrocer and a chemist were caught directly.

‘Answer to your names, gentlemen, that you may be sworn,’ said the gentleman in black. ‘Richard Upwitch.’

‘Here,’ said the greengrocer.

‘Thomas Groffin.’

‘Here,’ said the chemist.

‘Take the book, gentlemen. You shall well and truly try—’

‘I beg this court’s pardon,’ said the chemist, who was a tall, thin, yellow-visaged man, ‘but I hope this court will excuse my attendance.’

‘On what grounds, Sir?’ said Mr. Justice Stareleigh.

‘I have no assistant, my Lord,’ said the chemist.

‘I can’t help that, Sir,’ replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh. ‘You should hire one.’

‘I can’t afford it, my Lord,’ rejoined the chemist.

‘Then you ought to be able to afford it, Sir,’ said the judge, reddening; for Mr. Justice Stareleigh’s temper bordered on the irritable, and brooked not contradiction.

‘I know I ought to do, if I got on as well as I deserved; but I don’t, my Lord,’ answered the chemist.

‘Swear the gentleman,’ said the judge peremptorily.

The officer had got no further than the ‘You shall well and truly try,’ when he was again interrupted by the chemist.

‘I am to be sworn, my Lord, am I?’ said the chemist.

‘Certainly, sir,’ replied the testy little judge.

‘Very well, my Lord,’ replied the chemist, in a resigned manner. ‘Then there’ll be murder before this trial’s over; that’s all. Swear me, if you please, Sir;’ and sworn the chemist was, before the judge could find words to utter.

‘I merely wanted to observe, my Lord,’ said the chemist, taking his seat with great deliberation, ‘that I’ve left nobody but an errand-boy in my shop. He is a very nice boy, my Lord, but he is not acquainted with drugs; and I know that the prevailing impression on his mind is, that Epsom salts means oxalic acid; and syrup of senna, laudanum. That’s all, my Lord.’ With this, the tall chemist composed himself into a comfortable attitude, and, assuming a pleasant expression of countenance, appeared to have prepared himself for the worst.

Mr. Pickwick was regarding the chemist with feelings of the deepest horror, when a slight sensation was perceptible in the body of the court; and immediately afterwards Mrs. Bardell, supported by Mrs. Cluppins, was led in, and placed, in a drooping state, at the other end of the seat on which Mr. Pickwick sat. An extra-sized umbrella was then handed in by Mr. Dodson, and a pair of pattens by Mr. Fogg, each of whom had prepared a most sympathising and melancholy face for the occasion. Mrs. Sanders then appeared, leading in Master Bardell. At sight of her child, Mrs. Bardell started; suddenly recollecting herself, she kissed him in a frantic manner; then relapsing into a state of hysterical imbecility, the good lady requested to be informed where she was. In reply to this, Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders turned their heads away and wept, while Messrs. Dodson and Fogg entreated the plaintiff to compose herself. Serjeant Buzfuz rubbed his eyes very hard with a large white handkerchief, and gave an appealing look towards the jury, while the judge was visibly affected, and several of the beholders tried to cough down their emotion.

‘Very good notion that indeed,’ whispered Perker to Mr. Pickwick. ‘Capital fellows those Dodson and Fogg; excellent ideas of effect, my dear Sir, excellent.’

As Perker spoke, Mrs. Bardell began to recover by slow degrees, while Mrs. Cluppins, after a careful survey of Master Bardell’s buttons and the button-holes to which they severally belonged, placed him on the floor of the court in front of his mother—a commanding position in which he could not fail to awaken the full commiseration and sympathy of both judge and jury. This was not done without considerable opposition, and many tears, on the part of the young gentleman himself, who had certain inward misgivings that the placing him within the full glare of the judge’s eye was only a formal prelude to his being immediately ordered away for instant execution, or for transportation beyond the seas, during the whole term of his natural life, at the very least.

‘Bardell and Pickwick,’ cried the gentleman in black, calling on the case, which stood first on the list.

‘I am for the plaintiff, my Lord,’ said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz.

‘Who is with you, Brother Buzfuz?’ said the judge. Mr. Skimpin bowed, to intimate that he was.

‘I appear for the defendant, my Lord,’ said Mr. Serjeant Snubbin.

‘Anybody with you, Brother Snubbin?’ inquired the court.

‘Mr. Phunky, my Lord,’ replied Serjeant Snubbin.

‘Serjeant Buzfuz and Mr. Skimpin for the plaintiff,’ said the judge, writing down the names in his note-book, and reading as he wrote; ‘for the defendant, Serjeant Snubbin and Mr. Monkey.’

‘Beg your Lordship’s pardon, Phunky.’

‘Oh, very good,’ said the judge; ‘I never had the pleasure of hearing the gentleman’s name before.’ Here Mr. Phunky bowed and smiled, and the judge bowed and smiled too, and then Mr. Phunky, blushing into the very whites of his eyes, tried to look as if he didn’t know that everybody was gazing at him, a thing which no man ever succeeded in doing yet, or in all reasonable probability, ever will.

‘Go on,’ said the judge.

The ushers again called silence, and Mr. Skimpin proceeded to ‘open the case’; and the case appeared to have very little inside it when he had opened it, for he kept such particulars as he knew, completely to himself, and sat down, after a lapse of three minutes, leaving the jury in precisely the same advanced stage of wisdom as they were in before.

Serjeant Buzfuz then rose with all the majesty and dignity which the grave nature of the proceedings demanded, and having whispered to Dodson, and conferred briefly with Fogg, pulled his gown over his shoulders, settled his wig, and addressed the jury.

Serjeant Buzfuz began by saying, that never, in the whole course of his professional experience—never, from the very first moment of his applying himself to the study and practice of the law—had he approached a case with feelings of such deep emotion, or with such a heavy sense of the responsibility imposed upon him—a responsibility, he would say, which he could never have supported, were he not buoyed up and sustained by a conviction so strong, that it amounted to positive certainty that the cause of truth and justice, or, in other words, the cause of his much-injured and most oppressed client, must prevail with the high-minded and intelligent dozen of men whom he now saw in that box before him.

Counsel usually begin in this way, because it puts the jury on the very best terms with themselves, and makes them think what sharp fellows they must be. A visible effect was produced immediately, several jurymen beginning to take voluminous notes with the utmost eagerness.

‘You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen,’ continued Serjeant Buzfuz, well knowing that, from the learned friend alluded to, the gentlemen of the jury had heard just nothing at all—‘you have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen, that this is an action for a breach of promise of marriage, in which the damages are laid at £1,500. But you have not heard from my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not come within my learned friend’s province to tell you, what are the facts and circumstances of the case. Those facts and circumstances, gentlemen, you shall hear detailed by me, and proved by the unimpeachable female whom I will place in that box before you.’

Here, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, with a tremendous emphasis on the word ‘box,’ smote his table with a mighty sound, and glanced at Dodson and Fogg, who nodded admiration of the Serjeant, and indignant defiance of the defendant.

‘The plaintiff, gentlemen,’ continued Serjeant Buzfuz, in a soft and melancholy voice, ‘the plaintiff is a widow; yes, gentlemen, a widow. The late Mr. Bardell, after enjoying, for many years, the esteem and confidence of his sovereign, as one of the guardians of his royal revenues, glided almost imperceptibly from the world, to seek elsewhere for that repose and peace which a custom-house can never afford.’

At this pathetic description of the decease of Mr. Bardell, who had been knocked on the head with a quart-pot in a public-house cellar, the learned serjeant’s voice faltered, and he proceeded, with emotion—

‘Some time before his death, he had stamped his likeness upon a little boy. With this little boy, the only pledge of her departed exciseman, Mrs. Bardell shrank from the world, and courted the retirement and tranquillity of Goswell Street; and here she placed in her front parlour window a written placard, bearing this inscription—“Apartments furnished for a single gentleman. Inquire within.”’ Here Serjeant Buzfuz paused, while several gentlemen of the jury took a note of the document.

‘There is no date to that, is there?’ inquired a juror.

‘There is no date, gentlemen,’ replied Serjeant Buzfuz; ‘but I am instructed to say that it was put in the plaintiff’s parlour window just this time three years. I entreat the attention of the jury to the wording of this document—“Apartments furnished for a single gentleman”! Mrs. Bardell’s opinions of the opposite sex, gentlemen, were derived from a long contemplation of the inestimable qualities of her lost husband. She had no fear, she had no distrust, she had no suspicion; all was confidence and reliance. “Mr. Bardell,” said the widow—“Mr. Bardell was a man of honour, Mr. Bardell was a man of his word, Mr. Bardell was no deceiver, Mr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself; to single gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, for comfort, and for consolation; in single gentlemen I shall perpetually see something to remind me of what Mr. Bardell was when he first won my young and untried affections; to a single gentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let.” Actuated by this beautiful and touching impulse (among the best impulses of our imperfect nature, gentlemen), the lonely and desolate widow dried her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boy to her maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour window. Did it remain there long? No. The serpent was on the watch, the train was laid, the mine was preparing, the sapper and miner was at work. Before the bill had been in the parlour window three days—three days, gentlemen—a being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell’s house. He inquired within—he took the lodgings; and on the very next day he entered into possession of them. This man was Pickwick—Pickwick, the defendant.’

Serjeant Buzfuz, who had proceeded with such volubility that his face was perfectly crimson, here paused for breath. The silence awoke Mr. Justice Stareleigh, who immediately wrote down something with a pen without any ink in it, and looked unusually profound, to impress the jury with the belief that he always thought most deeply with his eyes shut. Serjeant Buzfuz proceeded—

‘Of this man Pickwick I will say little; the subject presents but few attractions; and I, gentlemen, am not the man, nor are you, gentlemen, the men, to delight in the contemplation of revolting heartlessness, and of systematic villainy.’

Here Mr. Pickwick, who had been writhing in silence for some time, gave a violent start, as if some vague idea of assaulting Serjeant Buzfuz, in the august presence of justice and law, suggested itself to his mind. An admonitory gesture from Perker restrained him, and he listened to the learned gentleman’s continuation with a look of indignation, which contrasted forcibly with the admiring faces of Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders.

‘I say systematic villainy, gentlemen,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, looking through Mr. Pickwick, and talking at him; ‘and when I say systematic villainy, let me tell the defendant Pickwick, if he be in court, as I am informed he is, that it would have been more decent in him, more becoming, in better judgment, and in better taste, if he had stopped away. Let me tell him, gentlemen, that any gestures of dissent or disapprobation in which he may indulge in this court will not go down with you; that you will know how to value and how to appreciate them; and let me tell him further, as my Lord will tell you, gentlemen, that a counsel, in the discharge of his duty to his client, is neither to be intimidated nor bullied, nor put down; and that any attempt to do either the one or the other, or the first, or the last, will recoil on the head of the attempter, be he plaintiff or be he defendant, be his name Pickwick, or Noakes, or Stoakes, or Stiles, or Brown, or Thompson.’

This little divergence from the subject in hand, had, of course, the intended effect of turning all eyes to Mr. Pickwick. Serjeant Buzfuz, having partially recovered from the state of moral elevation into which he had lashed himself, resumed—

‘I shall show you, gentlemen, that for two years, Pickwick continued to reside constantly, and without interruption or intermission, at Mrs. Bardell’s house. I shall show you that Mrs. Bardell, during the whole of that time, waited on him, attended to his comforts, cooked his meals, looked out his linen for the washerwoman when it went abroad, darned, aired, and prepared it for wear, when it came home, and, in short, enjoyed his fullest trust and confidence. I shall show you that, on many occasions, he gave halfpence, and on some occasions even sixpences, to her little boy; and I shall prove to you, by a witness whose testimony it will be impossible for my learned friend to weaken or controvert, that on one occasion he patted the boy on the head, and, after inquiring whether he had won any “alley tors” or “commoneys” lately (both of which I understand to be a particular species of marbles much prized by the youth of this town), made use of this remarkable expression, “How should you like to have another father?” I shall prove to you, gentlemen, that about a year ago, Pickwick suddenly began to absent himself from home, during long intervals, as if with the intention of gradually breaking off from my client; but I shall show you also, that his resolution was not at that time sufficiently strong, or that his better feelings conquered, if better feelings he has, or that the charms and accomplishments of my client prevailed against his unmanly intentions, by proving to you, that on one occasion, when he returned from the country, he distinctly and in terms, offered her marriage: previously, however, taking special care that there would be no witness to their solemn contract; and I am in a situation to prove to you, on the testimony of three of his own friends—most unwilling witnesses, gentlemen—most unwilling witnesses—that on that morning he was discovered by them holding the plaintiff in his arms, and soothing her agitation by his caresses and endearments.’

A visible impression was produced upon the auditors by this part of the learned Serjeant’s address. Drawing forth two very small scraps of paper, he proceeded—

‘And now, gentlemen, but one word more. Two letters have passed between these parties, letters which are admitted to be in the handwriting of the defendant, and which speak volumes, indeed. The letters, too, bespeak the character of the man. They are not open, fervent, eloquent epistles, breathing nothing but the language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic imagery—letters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eye—letters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first: “Garraways, twelve o’clock. Dear Mrs. B.—Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick.” Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious heavens! and tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away, by such shallow artifices as these? The next has no date whatever, which is in itself suspicious. “Dear Mrs. B., I shall not be at home till to-morrow. Slow coach.” And then follows this very remarkable expression. “Don’t trouble yourself about the warming-pan.” The warming-pan! Why, gentlemen, who does trouble himself about a warming-pan? When was the peace of mind of man or woman broken or disturbed by a warming-pan, which is in itself a harmless, a useful, and I will add, gentlemen, a comforting article of domestic furniture? Why is Mrs. Bardell so earnestly entreated not to agitate herself about this warming-pan, unless (as is no doubt the case) it is a mere cover for hidden fire—a mere substitute for some endearing word or promise, agreeably to a preconcerted system of correspondence, artfully contrived by Pickwick with a view to his contemplated desertion, and which I am not in a condition to explain? And what does this allusion to the slow coach mean? For aught I know, it may be a reference to Pickwick himself, who has most unquestionably been a criminally slow coach during the whole of this transaction, but whose speed will now be very unexpectedly accelerated, and whose wheels, gentlemen, as he will find to his cost, will very soon be greased by you!’

Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz paused in this place, to see whether the jury smiled at his joke; but as nobody took it but the greengrocer, whose sensitiveness on the subject was very probably occasioned by his having subjected a chaise-cart to the process in question on that identical morning, the learned Serjeant considered it advisable to undergo a slight relapse into the dismals before he concluded.

‘But enough of this, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, ‘it is difficult to smile with an aching heart; it is ill jesting when our deepest sympathies are awakened. My client’s hopes and prospects are ruined, and it is no figure of speech to say that her occupation is gone indeed. The bill is down—but there is no tenant. Eligible single gentlemen pass and repass—but there is no invitation for to inquire within or without. All is gloom and silence in the house; even the voice of the child is hushed; his infant sports are disregarded when his mother weeps; his “alley tors” and his “commoneys” are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiar cry of “knuckle down,” and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, his hand is out. But Pickwick, gentlemen, Pickwick, the ruthless destroyer of this domestic oasis in the desert of Goswell Street—Pickwick who has choked up the well, and thrown ashes on the sward—Pickwick, who comes before you to-day with his heartless tomato sauce and warming-pans—Pickwick still rears his head with unblushing effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruin he has made. Damages, gentlemen—heavy damages is the only punishment with which you can visit him; the only recompense you can award to my client. And for those damages she now appeals to an enlightened, a high-minded, a right-feeling, a conscientious, a dispassionate, a sympathising, a contemplative jury of her civilised countrymen.’ With this beautiful peroration, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz sat down, and Mr. Justice Stareleigh woke up.

‘Call Elizabeth Cluppins,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, rising a minute afterwards, with renewed vigour.

The nearest usher called for Elizabeth Tuppins; another one, at a little distance off, demanded Elizabeth Jupkins; and a third rushed in a breathless state into King Street, and screamed for Elizabeth Muffins till he was hoarse.

Meanwhile Mrs. Cluppins, with the combined assistance of Mrs. Bardell, Mrs. Sanders, Mr. Dodson, and Mr. Fogg, was hoisted into the witness-box; and when she was safely perched on the top step, Mrs. Bardell stood on the bottom one, with the pocket-handkerchief and pattens in one hand, and a glass bottle that might hold about a quarter of a pint of smelling-salts in the other, ready for any emergency. Mrs. Sanders, whose eyes were intently fixed on the judge’s face, planted herself close by, with the large umbrella, keeping her right thumb pressed on the spring with an earnest countenance, as if she were fully prepared to put it up at a moment’s notice.

‘Mrs. Cluppins,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, ‘pray compose yourself, ma’am.’ Of course, directly Mrs. Cluppins was desired to compose herself, she sobbed with increased vehemence, and gave divers alarming manifestations of an approaching fainting fit, or, as she afterwards said, of her feelings being too many for her.

‘Do you recollect, Mrs. Cluppins,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, after a few unimportant questions—‘do you recollect being in Mrs. Bardell’s back one pair of stairs, on one particular morning in July last, when she was dusting Pickwick’s apartment?’

‘Yes, my Lord and jury, I do,’ replied Mrs. Cluppins.

‘Mr. Pickwick’s sitting-room was the first-floor front, I believe?’

‘Yes, it were, Sir,’ replied Mrs. Cluppins.

‘What were you doing in the back room, ma’am?’ inquired the little judge.

‘My Lord and jury,’ said Mrs. Cluppins, with interesting agitation, ‘I will not deceive you.’

‘You had better not, ma’am,’ said the little judge.

‘I was there,’ resumed Mrs. Cluppins, ‘unbeknown to Mrs. Bardell; I had been out with a little basket, gentlemen, to buy three pound of red kidney pertaties, which was three pound tuppence ha’penny, when I see Mrs. Bardell’s street door on the jar.’

‘On the what?’ exclaimed the little judge.

‘Partly open, my Lord,’ said Serjeant Snubbin.

‘She said on the jar,’ said the little judge, with a cunning look.

‘It’s all the same, my Lord,’ said Serjeant Snubbin. The little judge looked doubtful, and said he’d make a note of it. Mrs. Cluppins then resumed—

‘I walked in, gentlemen, just to say good-mornin’, and went, in a permiscuous manner, upstairs, and into the back room. Gentlemen, there was the sound of voices in the front room, and—’

‘And you listened, I believe, Mrs. Cluppins?’ said Serjeant Buzfuz.

‘Beggin’ your pardon, Sir,’ replied Mrs. Cluppins, in a majestic manner, ‘I would scorn the haction. The voices was very loud, Sir, and forced themselves upon my ear.’

‘Well, Mrs. Cluppins, you were not listening, but you heard the voices. Was one of those voices Pickwick’s?’

‘Yes, it were, Sir.’ And Mrs. Cluppins, after distinctly stating that Mr. Pickwick addressed himself to Mrs. Bardell, repeated by slow degrees, and by dint of many questions, the conversation with which our readers are already acquainted.

The jury looked suspicious, and Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz smiled as he sat down. They looked positively awful when Serjeant Snubbin intimated that he should not cross-examine the witness, for Mr. Pickwick wished it to be distinctly stated that it was due to her to say, that her account was in substance correct.

Mrs. Cluppins having once broken the ice, thought it a favourable opportunity for entering into a short dissertation on her own domestic affairs; so she straightway proceeded to inform the court that she was the mother of eight children at that present speaking, and that she entertained confident expectations of presenting Mr. Cluppins with a ninth, somewhere about that day six months. At this interesting point, the little judge interposed most irascibly; and the effect of the interposition was, that both the worthy lady and Mrs. Sanders were politely taken out of court, under the escort of Mr. Jackson, without further parley.

‘Nathaniel Winkle!’ said Mr. Skimpin.

‘Here!’ replied a feeble voice. Mr. Winkle entered the witness-box, and having been duly sworn, bowed to the judge with considerable deference.

‘Don’t look at me, Sir,’ said the judge sharply, in acknowledgment of the salute; ‘look at the jury.’

Mr. Winkle obeyed the mandate, and looked at the place where he thought it most probable the jury might be; for seeing anything in his then state of intellectual complication was wholly out of the question.

Mr. Winkle was then examined by Mr. Skimpin, who, being a promising young man of two or three-and-forty, was of course anxious to confuse a witness who was notoriously predisposed in favour of the other side, as much as he could.

‘Now, Sir,’ said Mr. Skimpin, ‘have the goodness to let his Lordship know what your name is, will you?’ and Mr. Skimpin inclined his head on one side to listen with great sharpness to the answer, and glanced at the jury meanwhile, as if to imply that he rather expected Mr. Winkle’s natural taste for perjury would induce him to give some name which did not belong to him.

‘Winkle,’ replied the witness.

‘What’s your Christian name, Sir?’ angrily inquired the little judge.

‘Nathaniel, Sir.’

‘Daniel—any other name?’

‘Nathaniel, sir—my Lord, I mean.’

‘Nathaniel Daniel, or Daniel Nathaniel?’

‘No, my Lord, only Nathaniel—not Daniel at all.’

‘What did you tell me it was Daniel for, then, sir?’ inquired the judge.

‘I didn’t, my Lord,’ replied Mr. Winkle.

‘You did, Sir,’ replied the judge, with a severe frown. ‘How could I have got Daniel on my notes, unless you told me so, Sir?’

This argument was, of course, unanswerable.

‘Mr. Winkle has rather a short memory, my Lord,’ interposed Mr. Skimpin, with another glance at the jury. ‘We shall find means to refresh it before we have quite done with him, I dare say.’

‘You had better be careful, Sir,’ said the little judge, with a sinister look at the witness.

Poor Mr. Winkle bowed, and endeavoured to feign an easiness of manner, which, in his then state of confusion, gave him rather the air of a disconcerted pickpocket.

‘Now, Mr. Winkle,’ said Mr. Skimpin, ‘attend to me, if you please, Sir; and let me recommend you, for your own sake, to bear in mind his Lordship’s injunctions to be careful. I believe you are a particular friend of Mr. Pickwick, the defendant, are you not?’

‘I have known Mr. Pickwick now, as well as I recollect at this moment, nearly—’

‘Pray, Mr. Winkle, do not evade the question. Are you, or are you not, a particular friend of the defendant’s?’

‘I was just about to say, that—’

‘Will you, or will you not, answer my question, Sir?’

If you don’t answer the question, you’ll be committed, Sir,’ interposed the little judge, looking over his note-book.

‘Come, Sir,’ said Mr. Skimpin, ‘yes or no, if you please.’

‘Yes, I am,’ replied Mr. Winkle.

‘Yes, you are. And why couldn’t you say that at once, Sir? Perhaps you know the plaintiff too? Eh, Mr. Winkle?’

‘I don’t know her; I’ve seen her.’

‘Oh, you don’t know her, but you’ve seen her? Now, have the goodness to tell the gentlemen of the jury what you mean by that, Mr. Winkle.’

‘I mean that I am not intimate with her, but I have seen her when I went to call on Mr. Pickwick, in Goswell Street.’

‘How often have you seen her, Sir?’

‘How often?’

‘Yes, Mr. Winkle, how often? I’ll repeat the question for you a dozen times, if you require it, Sir.’ And the learned gentleman, with a firm and steady frown, placed his hands on his hips, and smiled suspiciously to the jury.

On this question there arose the edifying brow-beating, customary on such points. First of all, Mr. Winkle said it was quite impossible for him to say how many times he had seen Mrs. Bardell. Then he was asked if he had seen her twenty times, to which he replied, ‘Certainly—more than that.’ Then he was asked whether he hadn’t seen her a hundred times—whether he couldn’t swear that he had seen her more than fifty times—whether he didn’t know that he had seen her at least seventy-five times, and so forth; the satisfactory conclusion which was arrived at, at last, being, that he had better take care of himself, and mind what he was about. The witness having been by these means reduced to the requisite ebb of nervous perplexity, the examination was continued as follows—

‘Pray, Mr. Winkle, do you remember calling on the defendant Pickwick at these apartments in the plaintiff’s house in Goswell Street, on one particular morning, in the month of July last?’

‘Yes, I do.’

‘Were you accompanied on that occasion by a friend of the name of Tupman, and another by the name of Snodgrass?’

‘Yes, I was.’

‘Are they here?’

Yes, they are,’ replied Mr. Winkle, looking very earnestly towards the spot where his friends were stationed.

‘Pray attend to me, Mr. Winkle, and never mind your friends,’ said Mr. Skimpin, with another expressive look at the jury. ‘They must tell their stories without any previous consultation with you, if none has yet taken place (another look at the jury). Now, Sir, tell the gentlemen of the jury what you saw on entering the defendant’s room, on this particular morning. Come; out with it, Sir; we must have it, sooner or later.’

‘The defendant, Mr. Pickwick, was holding the plaintiff in his arms, with his hands clasping her waist,’ replied Mr. Winkle with natural hesitation, ‘and the plaintiff appeared to have fainted away.’

‘Did you hear the defendant say anything?’

‘I heard him call Mrs. Bardell a good creature, and I heard him ask her to compose herself, for what a situation it was, if anybody should come, or words to that effect.’

‘Now, Mr. Winkle, I have only one more question to ask you, and I beg you to bear in mind his Lordship’s caution. Will you undertake to swear that Pickwick, the defendant, did not say on the occasion in question—“My dear Mrs. Bardell, you’re a good creature; compose yourself to this situation, for to this situation you must come,” or words to that effect?’

‘I—I didn’t understand him so, certainly,’ said Mr. Winkle, astounded on this ingenious dove-tailing of the few words he had heard. ‘I was on the staircase, and couldn’t hear distinctly; the impression on my mind is—’

‘The gentlemen of the jury want none of the impressions on your mind, Mr. Winkle, which I fear would be of little service to honest, straightforward men,’ interposed Mr. Skimpin. ‘You were on the staircase, and didn’t distinctly hear; but you will not swear that Pickwick did not make use of the expressions I have quoted? Do I understand that?’

‘No, I will not,’ replied Mr. Winkle; and down sat Mr. Skimpin with a triumphant countenance.

Mr. Pickwick’s case had not gone off in so particularly happy a manner, up to this point, that it could very well afford to have any additional suspicion cast upon it. But as it could afford to be placed in a rather better light, if possible, Mr. Phunky rose for the purpose of getting something important out of Mr. Winkle in cross-examination. Whether he did get anything important out of him, will immediately appear.

‘I believe, Mr. Winkle,’ said Mr. Phunky, ‘that Mr. Pickwick is not a young man?’

‘Oh, no,’ replied Mr. Winkle; ‘old enough to be my father.’

‘You have told my learned friend that you have known Mr. Pickwick a long time. Had you ever any reason to suppose or believe that he was about to be married?’

‘Oh, no; certainly not;’ replied Mr. Winkle with so much eagerness, that Mr. Phunky ought to have got him out of the box with all possible dispatch. Lawyers hold that there are two kinds of particularly bad witnesses—a reluctant witness, and a too-willing witness; it was Mr. Winkle’s fate to figure in both characters.

‘I will even go further than this, Mr. Winkle,’ continued Mr. Phunky, in a most smooth and complacent manner. ‘Did you ever see anything in Mr. Pickwick’s manner and conduct towards the opposite sex, to induce you to believe that he ever contemplated matrimony of late years, in any case?’

‘Oh, no; certainly not,’ replied Mr. Winkle.

‘Has his behaviour, when females have been in the case, always been that of a man, who, having attained a pretty advanced period of life, content with his own occupations and amusements, treats them only as a father might his daughters?’

‘Not the least doubt of it,’ replied Mr. Winkle, in the fulness of his heart. ‘That is—yes—oh, yes—certainly.’

‘You have never known anything in his behaviour towards Mrs. Bardell, or any other female, in the least degree suspicious?’ said Mr. Phunky, preparing to sit down; for Serjeant Snubbin was winking at him.

‘N-n-no,’ replied Mr. Winkle, ‘except on one trifling occasion, which, I have no doubt, might be easily explained.’

Now, if the unfortunate Mr. Phunky had sat down when Serjeant Snubbin had winked at him, or if Serjeant Buzfuz had stopped this irregular cross-examination at the outset (which he knew better than to do; observing Mr. Winkle’s anxiety, and well knowing it would, in all probability, lead to something serviceable to him), this unfortunate admission would not have been elicited. The moment the words fell from Mr. Winkle’s lips, Mr. Phunky sat down, and Serjeant Snubbin rather hastily told him he might leave the box, which Mr. Winkle prepared to do with great readiness, when Serjeant Buzfuz stopped him.

‘Stay, Mr. Winkle, stay!’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, ‘will your Lordship have the goodness to ask him, what this one instance of suspicious behaviour towards females on the part of this gentleman, who is old enough to be his father, was?’

‘You hear what the learned counsel says, Sir,’ observed the judge, turning to the miserable and agonised Mr. Winkle. ‘Describe the occasion to which you refer.’

‘My Lord,’ said Mr. Winkle, trembling with anxiety, ‘I—I’d rather not.’

‘Perhaps so,’ said the little judge; ‘but you must.’

Amid the profound silence of the whole court, Mr. Winkle faltered out, that the trifling circumstance of suspicion was Mr. Pickwick’s being found in a lady’s sleeping-apartment at midnight; which had terminated, he believed, in the breaking off of the projected marriage of the lady in question, and had led, he knew, to the whole party being forcibly carried before George Nupkins, Esq., magistrate and justice of the peace, for the borough of Ipswich!

‘You may leave the box, Sir,’ said Serjeant Snubbin. Mr. Winkle did leave the box, and rushed with delirious haste to the George and Vulture, where he was discovered some hours after, by the waiter, groaning in a hollow and dismal manner, with his head buried beneath the sofa cushions.

Tracy Tupman, and Augustus Snodgrass, were severally called into the box; both corroborated the testimony of their unhappy friend; and each was driven to the verge of desperation by excessive badgering.

Susannah Sanders was then called, and examined by Serjeant Buzfuz, and cross-examined by Serjeant Snubbin. Had always said and believed that Pickwick would marry Mrs. Bardell; knew that Mrs. Bardell’s being engaged to Pickwick was the current topic of conversation in the neighbourhood, after the fainting in July; had been told it herself by Mrs. Mudberry which kept a mangle, and Mrs. Bunkin which clear-starched, but did not see either Mrs. Mudberry or Mrs. Bunkin in court. Had heard Pickwick ask the little boy how he should like to have another father. Did not know that Mrs. Bardell was at that time keeping company with the baker, but did know that the baker was then a single man and is now married. Couldn’t swear that Mrs. Bardell was not very fond of the baker, but should think that the baker was not very fond of Mrs. Bardell, or he wouldn’t have married somebody else. Thought Mrs. Bardell fainted away on the morning in July, because Pickwick asked her to name the day: knew that she (witness) fainted away stone dead when Mr. Sanders asked her to name the day, and believed that everybody as called herself a lady would do the same, under similar circumstances. Heard Pickwick ask the boy the question about the marbles, but upon her oath did not know the difference between an ‘alley tor’ and a ‘commoney.’

By the court.—During the period of her keeping company with Mr. Sanders, had received love letters, like other ladies. In the course of their correspondence Mr. Sanders had often called her a ‘duck,’ but never ‘chops,’ nor yet ‘tomato sauce.’ He was particularly fond of ducks. Perhaps if he had been as fond of chops and tomato sauce, he might have called her that, as a term of affection.

Serjeant Buzfuz now rose with more importance than he had yet exhibited, if that were possible, and vociferated; ‘Call Samuel Weller.’

It was quite unnecessary to call Samuel Weller; for Samuel Weller stepped briskly into the box the instant his name was pronounced; and placing his hat on the floor, and his arms on the rail, took a bird’s-eye view of the Bar, and a comprehensive survey of the Bench, with a remarkably cheerful and lively aspect.

‘What’s your name, sir?’ inquired the judge.

‘Sam Weller, my Lord,’ replied that gentleman.

‘Do you spell it with a “V” or a “W”?’ inquired the judge.

‘That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord,’ replied Sam; ‘I never had occasion to spell it more than once or twice in my life, but I spells it with a “V.”’

Here a voice in the gallery exclaimed aloud, ‘Quite right too, Samivel, quite right. Put it down a “we,” my Lord, put it down a “we.”’

Who is that, who dares address the court?’ said the little judge, looking up. ‘Usher.’

‘Yes, my Lord.’

‘Bring that person here instantly.’

‘Yes, my Lord.’

But as the usher didn’t find the person, he didn’t bring him; and, after a great commotion, all the people who had got up to look for the culprit, sat down again. The little judge turned to the witness as soon as his indignation would allow him to speak, and said—

‘Do you know who that was, sir?’

‘I rayther suspect it was my father, my lord,’ replied Sam.

‘Do you see him here now?’ said the judge.

‘No, I don’t, my Lord,’ replied Sam, staring right up into the lantern at the roof of the court.

‘If you could have pointed him out, I would have committed him instantly,’ said the judge. Sam bowed his acknowledgments and turned, with unimpaired cheerfulness of countenance, towards Serjeant Buzfuz.

‘Now, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz.

‘Now, sir,’ replied Sam.

‘I believe you are in the service of Mr. Pickwick, the defendant in this case? Speak up, if you please, Mr. Weller.’

‘I mean to speak up, Sir,’ replied Sam; ‘I am in the service o’ that ‘ere gen’l’man, and a wery good service it is.’

‘Little to do, and plenty to get, I suppose?’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, with jocularity.

‘Oh, quite enough to get, Sir, as the soldier said ven they ordered him three hundred and fifty lashes,’ replied Sam.

‘You must not tell us what the soldier, or any other man, said, Sir,’ interposed the judge; ‘it’s not evidence.’

‘Wery good, my Lord,’ replied Sam.

‘Do you recollect anything particular happening on the morning when you were first engaged by the defendant; eh, Mr. Weller?’ said Serjeant Buzfuz.

‘Yes, I do, sir,’ replied Sam.

‘Have the goodness to tell the jury what it was.’

‘I had a reg’lar new fit out o’ clothes that mornin’, gen’l’men of the jury,’ said Sam, ‘and that was a wery partickler and uncommon circumstance vith me in those days.’

Hereupon there was a general laugh; and the little judge, looking with an angry countenance over his desk, said, ‘You had better be careful, Sir.’

‘So Mr. Pickwick said at the time, my Lord,’ replied Sam; ‘and I was wery careful o’ that ‘ere suit o’ clothes; wery careful indeed, my Lord.’

The judge looked sternly at Sam for full two minutes, but Sam’s features were so perfectly calm and serene that the judge said nothing, and motioned Serjeant Buzfuz to proceed.

‘Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, folding his arms emphatically, and turning half-round to the jury, as if in mute assurance that he would bother the witness yet—‘do you mean to tell me, Mr. Weller, that you saw nothing of this fainting on the part of the plaintiff in the arms of the defendant, which you have heard described by the witnesses?’

Certainly not,’ replied Sam; ‘I was in the passage till they called me up, and then the old lady was not there.’

‘Now, attend, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, dipping a large pen into the inkstand before him, for the purpose of frightening Sam with a show of taking down his answer. ‘You were in the passage, and yet saw nothing of what was going forward. Have you a pair of eyes, Mr. Weller?’

‘Yes, I have a pair of eyes,’ replied Sam, ‘and that’s just it. If they wos a pair o’ patent double million magnifyin’ gas microscopes of hextra power, p’raps I might be able to see through a flight o’ stairs and a deal door; but bein’ only eyes, you see, my wision ‘s limited.’

At this answer, which was delivered without the slightest appearance of irritation, and with the most complete simplicity and equanimity of manner, the spectators tittered, the little judge smiled, and Serjeant Buzfuz looked particularly foolish. After a short consultation with Dodson & Fogg, the learned Serjeant again turned towards Sam, and said, with a painful effort to conceal his vexation, ‘Now, Mr. Weller, I’ll ask you a question on another point, if you please.’

‘If you please, Sir,’ rejoined Sam, with the utmost good-humour.

‘Do you remember going up to Mrs. Bardell’s house, one night in November last?’

Oh, yes, wery well.’

‘Oh, you do remember that, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, recovering his spirits; ‘I thought we should get at something at last.’

‘I rayther thought that, too, sir,’ replied Sam; and at this the spectators tittered again.

‘Well; I suppose you went up to have a little talk about this trial—eh, Mr. Weller?’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, looking knowingly at the jury.

‘I went up to pay the rent; but we did get a-talkin’ about the trial,’ replied Sam.

‘Oh, you did get a-talking about the trial,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, brightening up with the anticipation of some important discovery. ‘Now, what passed about the trial; will you have the goodness to tell us, Mr. Weller’?’

‘Vith all the pleasure in life, sir,’ replied Sam. ‘Arter a few unimportant obserwations from the two wirtuous females as has been examined here to-day, the ladies gets into a very great state o’ admiration at the honourable conduct of Mr. Dodson and Fogg—them two gen’l’men as is settin’ near you now.’ This, of course, drew general attention to Dodson & Fogg, who looked as virtuous as possible.

‘The attorneys for the plaintiff,’ said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz. ‘Well! They spoke in high praise of the honourable conduct of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, the attorneys for the plaintiff, did they?’

‘Yes,’ said Sam, ‘they said what a wery gen’rous thing it was o’ them to have taken up the case on spec, and to charge nothing at all for costs, unless they got ‘em out of Mr. Pickwick.’

At this very unexpected reply, the spectators tittered again, and Dodson & Fogg, turning very red, leaned over to Serjeant Buzfuz, and in a hurried manner whispered something in his ear.

‘You are quite right,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz aloud, with affected composure. ‘It’s perfectly useless, my Lord, attempting to get at any evidence through the impenetrable stupidity of this witness. I will not trouble the court by asking him any more questions. Stand down, sir.’

‘Would any other gen’l’man like to ask me anythin’?’ inquired Sam, taking up his hat, and looking round most deliberately.

‘Not I, Mr. Weller, thank you,’ said Serjeant Snubbin, laughing.

‘You may go down, sir,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, waving his hand impatiently. Sam went down accordingly, after doing Messrs. Dodson & Fogg’s case as much harm as he conveniently could, and saying just as little respecting Mr. Pickwick as might be, which was precisely the object he had had in view all along.

‘I have no objection to admit, my Lord,’ said Serjeant Snubbin, ‘if it will save the examination of another witness, that Mr. Pickwick has retired from business, and is a gentleman of considerable independent property.’

‘Very well,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, putting in the two letters to be read, ‘then that’s my case, my Lord.’

Serjeant Snubbin then addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant; and a very long and a very emphatic address he delivered, in which he bestowed the highest possible eulogiums on the conduct and character of Mr. Pickwick; but inasmuch as our readers are far better able to form a correct estimate of that gentleman’s merits and deserts, than Serjeant Snubbin could possibly be, we do not feel called upon to enter at any length into the learned gentleman’s observations. He attempted to show that the letters which had been exhibited, merely related to Mr. Pickwick’s dinner, or to the preparations for receiving him in his apartments on his return from some country excursion. It is sufficient to add in general terms, that he did the best he could for Mr. Pickwick; and the best, as everybody knows, on the infallible authority of the old adage, could do no more.

Mr. Justice Stareleigh summed up, in the old-established and most approved form. He read as much of his notes to the jury as he could decipher on so short a notice, and made running-comments on the evidence as he went along. If Mrs. Bardell were right, it was perfectly clear that Mr. Pickwick was wrong, and if they thought the evidence of Mrs. Cluppins worthy of credence they would believe it, and, if they didn’t, why, they wouldn’t. If they were satisfied that a breach of promise of marriage had been committed they would find for the plaintiff with such damages as they thought proper; and if, on the other hand, it appeared to them that no promise of marriage had ever been given, they would find for the defendant with no damages at all. The jury then retired to their private room to talk the matter over, and the judge retired to his private room, to refresh himself with a mutton chop and a glass of sherry.

An anxious quarter of a hour elapsed; the jury came back; the judge was fetched in. Mr. Pickwick put on his spectacles, and gazed at the foreman with an agitated countenance and a quickly-beating heart.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the individual in black, ‘are you all agreed upon your verdict?’

‘We are,’ replied the foreman.

‘Do you find for the plaintiff, gentlemen, or for the defendant?’

For the plaintiff.’

‘With what damages, gentlemen?’

‘Seven hundred and fifty pounds.’

Mr. Pickwick took off his spectacles, carefully wiped the glasses, folded them into their case, and put them in his pocket; then, having drawn on his gloves with great nicety, and stared at the foreman all the while, he mechanically followed Mr. Perker and the blue bag out of court.

They stopped in a side room while Perker paid the court fees; and here, Mr. Pickwick was joined by his friends. Here, too, he encountered Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, rubbing their hands with every token of outward satisfaction.

‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Well, Sir,’ said Dodson, for self and partner.

‘You imagine you’ll get your costs, don’t you, gentlemen?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Fogg said they thought it rather probable. Dodson smiled, and said they’d try.

‘You may try, and try, and try again, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg,’ said Mr. Pickwick vehemently, ‘but not one farthing of costs or damages do you ever get from me, if I spend the rest of my existence in a debtor’s prison.’

‘Ha! ha!’ laughed Dodson. ‘You’ll think better of that, before next term, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘He, he, he! We’ll soon see about that, Mr. Pickwick,’ grinned Fogg.

Speechless with indignation, Mr. Pickwick allowed himself to be led by his solicitor and friends to the door, and there assisted into a hackney-coach, which had been fetched for the purpose, by the ever-watchful Sam Weller.

Sam had put up the steps, and was preparing to jump upon the box, when he felt himself gently touched on the shoulder; and, looking round, his father stood before him. The old gentleman’s countenance wore a mournful expression, as he shook his head gravely, and said, in warning accents—

‘I know’d what ‘ud come o’ this here mode o’ doin’ bisness. Oh, Sammy, Sammy, vy worn’t there a alleybi!’






CHAPTER XXXV. IN WHICH MR. PICKWICK THINKS HE HAD BETTER GO TO BATH; AND GOES ACCORDINGLY

But surely, my dear sir,’ said little Perker, as he stood in Mr. Pickwick’s apartment on the morning after the trial, ‘surely you don’t really mean—really and seriously now, and irritation apart—that you won’t pay these costs and damages?’

‘Not one halfpenny,’ said Mr. Pickwick firmly; ‘not one halfpenny.’

‘Hooroar for the principle, as the money-lender said ven he vouldn’t renew the bill,’ observed Mr. Weller, who was clearing away the breakfast-things.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘have the goodness to step downstairs.’

‘Cert’nly, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; and acting on Mr. Pickwick’s gentle hint, Sam retired.

‘No, Perker,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with great seriousness of manner, ‘my friends here have endeavoured to dissuade me from this determination, but without avail. I shall employ myself as usual, until the opposite party have the power of issuing a legal process of execution against me; and if they are vile enough to avail themselves of it, and to arrest my person, I shall yield myself up with perfect cheerfulness and content of heart. When can they do this?’

‘They can issue execution, my dear Sir, for the amount of the damages and taxed costs, next term,’ replied Perker, ‘just two months hence, my dear sir.’

‘Very good,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Until that time, my dear fellow, let me hear no more of the matter. And now,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, looking round on his friends with a good-humoured smile, and a sparkle in the eye which no spectacles could dim or conceal, ‘the only question is, Where shall we go next?’

Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were too much affected by their friend’s heroism to offer any reply. Mr. Winkle had not yet sufficiently recovered the recollection of his evidence at the trial, to make any observation on any subject, so Mr. Pickwick paused in vain.

‘Well,’ said that gentleman, ‘if you leave me to suggest our destination, I say Bath. I think none of us have ever been there.’

Nobody had; and as the proposition was warmly seconded by Perker, who considered it extremely probable that if Mr. Pickwick saw a little change and gaiety he would be inclined to think better of his determination, and worse of a debtor’s prison, it was carried unanimously; and Sam was at once despatched to the White Horse Cellar, to take five places by the half-past seven o’clock coach, next morning.

There were just two places to be had inside, and just three to be had out; so Sam Weller booked for them all, and having exchanged a few compliments with the booking-office clerk on the subject of a pewter half-crown which was tendered him as a portion of his ‘change,’ walked back to the George and Vulture, where he was pretty busily employed until bed-time in reducing clothes and linen into the smallest possible compass, and exerting his mechanical genius in constructing a variety of ingenious devices for keeping the lids on boxes which had neither locks nor hinges.

The next was a very unpropitious morning for a journey—muggy, damp, and drizzly. The horses in the stages that were going out, and had come through the city, were smoking so, that the outside passengers were invisible. The newspaper-sellers looked moist, and smelled mouldy; the wet ran off the hats of the orange-vendors as they thrust their heads into the coach windows, and diluted the insides in a refreshing manner. The Jews with the fifty-bladed penknives shut them up in despair; the men with the pocket-books made pocket-books of them. Watch-guards and toasting-forks were alike at a discount, and pencil-cases and sponges were a drug in the market.

Leaving Sam Weller to rescue the luggage from the seven or eight porters who flung themselves savagely upon it, the moment the coach stopped, and finding that they were about twenty minutes too early, Mr. Pickwick and his friends went for shelter into the travellers’ room—the last resource of human dejection.

The travellers’ room at the White Horse Cellar is of course uncomfortable; it would be no travellers’ room if it were not. It is the right-hand parlour, into which an aspiring kitchen fireplace appears to have walked, accompanied by a rebellious poker, tongs, and shovel. It is divided into boxes, for the solitary confinement of travellers, and is furnished with a clock, a looking-glass, and a live waiter, which latter article is kept in a small kennel for washing glasses, in a corner of the apartment.

One of these boxes was occupied, on this particular occasion, by a stern-eyed man of about five-and-forty, who had a bald and glossy forehead, with a good deal of black hair at the sides and back of his head, and large black whiskers. He was buttoned up to the chin in a brown coat; and had a large sealskin travelling-cap, and a greatcoat and cloak, lying on the seat beside him. He looked up from his breakfast as Mr. Pickwick entered, with a fierce and peremptory air, which was very dignified; and, having scrutinised that gentleman and his companions to his entire satisfaction, hummed a tune, in a manner which seemed to say that he rather suspected somebody wanted to take advantage of him, but it wouldn’t do.

‘Waiter,’ said the gentleman with the whiskers.

‘Sir?’ replied a man with a dirty complexion, and a towel of the same, emerging from the kennel before mentioned.

‘Some more toast.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Buttered toast, mind,’ said the gentleman fiercely.

‘Directly, sir,’ replied the waiter.

The gentleman with the whiskers hummed a tune in the same manner as before, and pending the arrival of the toast, advanced to the front of the fire, and, taking his coat tails under his arms, looked at his boots and ruminated.

‘I wonder whereabouts in Bath this coach puts up,’ said Mr. Pickwick, mildly addressing Mr. Winkle.

‘Hum—eh—what’s that?’ said the strange man.

‘I made an observation to my friend, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, always ready to enter into conversation. ‘I wondered at what house the Bath coach put up. Perhaps you can inform me.’

Are you going to Bath?’ said the strange man.

‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘And those other gentlemen?’

‘They are going also,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Not inside—I’ll be damned if you’re going inside,’ said the strange man.

‘Not all of us,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘No, not all of you,’ said the strange man emphatically. ‘I’ve taken two places. If they try to squeeze six people into an infernal box that only holds four, I’ll take a post-chaise and bring an action. I’ve paid my fare. It won’t do; I told the clerk when I took my places that it wouldn’t do. I know these things have been done. I know they are done every day; but I never was done, and I never will be. Those who know me best, best know it; crush me!’ Here the fierce gentleman rang the bell with great violence, and told the waiter he’d better bring the toast in five seconds, or he’d know the reason why.

‘My good sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘you will allow me to observe that this is a very unnecessary display of excitement. I have only taken places inside for two.’

‘I am glad to hear it,’ said the fierce man. ‘I withdraw my expressions. I tender an apology. There’s my card. Give me your acquaintance.’

‘With great pleasure, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘We are to be fellow-travellers, and I hope we shall find each other’s society mutually agreeable.’

‘I hope we shall,’ said the fierce gentleman. ‘I know we shall. I like your looks; they please me. Gentlemen, your hands and names. Know me.’

Of course, an interchange of friendly salutations followed this gracious speech; and the fierce gentleman immediately proceeded to inform the friends, in the same short, abrupt, jerking sentences, that his name was Dowler; that he was going to Bath on pleasure; that he was formerly in the army; that he had now set up in business as a gentleman; that he lived upon the profits; and that the individual for whom the second place was taken, was a personage no less illustrious than Mrs. Dowler, his lady wife.

‘She’s a fine woman,’ said Mr. Dowler. ‘I am proud of her. I have reason.’

‘I hope I shall have the pleasure of judging,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.

‘You shall,’ replied Dowler. ‘She shall know you. She shall esteem you. I courted her under singular circumstances. I won her through a rash vow. Thus. I saw her; I loved her; I proposed; she refused me.—“You love another?”—“Spare my blushes.”—“I know him.”—“You do.”—“Very good; if he remains here, I’ll skin him.”’

‘Lord bless me!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick involuntarily.

‘Did you skin the gentleman, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Winkle, with a very pale face.

‘I wrote him a note, I said it was a painful thing. And so it was.’

‘Certainly,’ interposed Mr. Winkle.

‘I said I had pledged my word as a gentleman to skin him. My character was at stake. I had no alternative. As an officer in His Majesty’s service, I was bound to skin him. I regretted the necessity, but it must be done. He was open to conviction. He saw that the rules of the service were imperative. He fled. I married her. Here’s the coach. That’s her head.’

As Mr. Dowler concluded, he pointed to a stage which had just driven up, from the open window of which a rather pretty face in a bright blue bonnet was looking among the crowd on the pavement, most probably for the rash man himself. Mr. Dowler paid his bill, and hurried out with his travelling cap, coat, and cloak; and Mr. Pickwick and his friends followed to secure their places.

Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had seated themselves at the back part of the coach; Mr. Winkle had got inside; and Mr. Pickwick was preparing to follow him, when Sam Weller came up to his master, and whispering in his ear, begged to speak to him, with an air of the deepest mystery.

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what’s the matter now?’

‘Here’s rayther a rum go, sir,’ replied Sam.

‘What?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘This here, Sir,’ rejoined Sam. ‘I’m wery much afeerd, sir, that the properiator o’ this here coach is a playin’ some imperence vith us.’

‘How is that, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘aren’t the names down on the way-bill?’

‘The names is not only down on the vay-bill, Sir,’ replied Sam, ‘but they’ve painted vun on ‘em up, on the door o’ the coach.’ As Sam spoke, he pointed to that part of the coach door on which the proprietor’s name usually appears; and there, sure enough, in gilt letters of a goodly size, was the magic name of Pickwick!

‘Dear me,’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite staggered by the coincidence; ‘what a very extraordinary thing!’

‘Yes, but that ain’t all,’ said Sam, again directing his master’s attention to the coach door; ‘not content vith writin’ up “Pick-wick,” they puts “Moses” afore it, vich I call addin’ insult to injury, as the parrot said ven they not only took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langwidge arterwards.’

‘It’s odd enough, certainly, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but if we stand talking here, we shall lose our places.’

‘Wot, ain’t nothin’ to be done in consequence, sir?’ exclaimed Sam, perfectly aghast at the coolness with which Mr. Pickwick prepared to ensconce himself inside.

‘Done!’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘What should be done?’

Ain’t nobody to be whopped for takin’ this here liberty, sir?’ said Mr. Weller, who had expected that at least he would have been commissioned to challenge the guard and the coachman to a pugilistic encounter on the spot.

‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick eagerly; ‘not on any account. Jump up to your seat directly.’

‘I am wery much afeered,’ muttered Sam to himself, as he turned away, ‘that somethin’ queer’s come over the governor, or he’d never ha’ stood this so quiet. I hope that ‘ere trial hasn’t broke his spirit, but it looks bad, wery bad.’ Mr. Weller shook his head gravely; and it is worthy of remark, as an illustration of the manner in which he took this circumstance to heart, that he did not speak another word until the coach reached the Kensington turnpike. Which was so long a time for him to remain taciturn, that the fact may be considered wholly unprecedented.

Nothing worthy of special mention occurred during the journey. Mr. Dowler related a variety of anecdotes, all illustrative of his own personal prowess and desperation, and appealed to Mrs. Dowler in corroboration thereof; when Mrs. Dowler invariably brought in, in the form of an appendix, some remarkable fact or circumstance which Mr. Dowler had forgotten, or had perhaps through modesty, omitted; for the addenda in every instance went to show that Mr. Dowler was even a more wonderful fellow than he made himself out to be. Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle listened with great admiration, and at intervals conversed with Mrs. Dowler, who was a very agreeable and fascinating person. So, what between Mr. Dowler’s stories, and Mrs. Dowler’s charms, and Mr. Pickwick’s good-humour, and Mr. Winkle’s good listening, the insides contrived to be very companionable all the way.

The outsides did as outsides always do. They were very cheerful and talkative at the beginning of every stage, and very dismal and sleepy in the middle, and very bright and wakeful again towards the end. There was one young gentleman in an India-rubber cloak, who smoked cigars all day; and there was another young gentleman in a parody upon a greatcoat, who lighted a good many, and feeling obviously unsettled after the second whiff, threw them away when he thought nobody was looking at him. There was a third young man on the box who wished to be learned in cattle; and an old one behind, who was familiar with farming. There was a constant succession of Christian names in smock-frocks and white coats, who were invited to have a ‘lift’ by the guard, and who knew every horse and hostler on the road and off it; and there was a dinner which would have been cheap at half-a-crown a mouth, if any moderate number of mouths could have eaten it in the time. And at seven o’clock P.M. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr. Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting-rooms at the White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, where the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion by behaving themselves much better.

Breakfast had scarcely been cleared away on the succeeding morning, when a waiter brought in Mr. Dowler’s card, with a request to be allowed permission to introduce a friend. Mr. Dowler at once followed up the delivery of the card, by bringing himself and the friend also.

The friend was a charming young man of not much more than fifty, dressed in a very bright blue coat with resplendent buttons, black trousers, and the thinnest possible pair of highly-polished boots. A gold eye-glass was suspended from his neck by a short, broad, black ribbon; a gold snuff-box was lightly clasped in his left hand; gold rings innumerable glittered on his fingers; and a large diamond pin set in gold glistened in his shirt frill. He had a gold watch, and a gold curb chain with large gold seals; and he carried a pliant ebony cane with a gold top. His linen was of the very whitest, finest, and stiffest; his wig of the glossiest, blackest, and curliest. His snuff was princes’ mixture; his scent bouquet du roi. His features were contracted into a perpetual smile; and his teeth were in such perfect order that it was difficult at a small distance to tell the real from the false.

‘Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mr. Dowler; ‘my friend, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C.; Bantam; Mr. Pickwick. Know each other.’

‘Welcome to Ba—ath, Sir. This is indeed an acquisition. Most welcome to Ba—ath, sir. It is long—very long, Mr. Pickwick, since you drank the waters. It appears an age, Mr. Pickwick. Re-markable!’

Such were the expressions with which Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., took Mr. Pickwick’s hand; retaining it in his, meantime, and shrugging up his shoulders with a constant succession of bows, as if he really could not make up his mind to the trial of letting it go again.

‘It is a very long time since I drank the waters, certainly,’ replied Mr. Pickwick; ‘for, to the best of my knowledge, I was never here before.’

‘Never in Ba—ath, Mr. Pickwick!’ exclaimed the Grand Master, letting the hand fall in astonishment. ‘Never in Ba—ath! He! he! Mr. Pickwick, you are a wag. Not bad, not bad. Good, good. He! he! he! Re-markable!’

‘To my shame, I must say that I am perfectly serious,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick. ‘I really never was here before.’

‘Oh, I see,’ exclaimed the Grand Master, looking extremely pleased; ‘yes, yes—good, good—better and better. You are the gentleman of whom we have heard. Yes; we know you, Mr. Pickwick; we know you.’

‘The reports of the trial in those confounded papers,’ thought Mr. Pickwick. ‘They have heard all about me.’

You are the gentleman residing on Clapham Green,’ resumed Bantam, ‘who lost the use of his limbs from imprudently taking cold after port wine; who could not be moved in consequence of acute suffering, and who had the water from the king’s bath bottled at one hundred and three degrees, and sent by wagon to his bedroom in town, where he bathed, sneezed, and the same day recovered. Very remarkable!’

Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment which the supposition implied, but had the self-denial to repudiate it, notwithstanding; and taking advantage of a moment’s silence on the part of the M.C., begged to introduce his friends, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass. An introduction which overwhelmed the M.C. with delight and honour.

‘Bantam,’ said Mr. Dowler, ‘Mr. Pickwick and his friends are strangers. They must put their names down. Where’s the book?’

‘The register of the distinguished visitors in Ba—ath will be at the Pump Room this morning at two o’clock,’ replied the M.C. ‘Will you guide our friends to that splendid building, and enable me to procure their autographs?’

‘I will,’ rejoined Dowler. ‘This is a long call. It’s time to go. I shall be here again in an hour. Come.’

‘This is a ball-night,’ said the M.C., again taking Mr. Pickwick’s hand, as he rose to go. ‘The ball-nights in Ba—ath are moments snatched from paradise; rendered bewitching by music, beauty, elegance, fashion, etiquette, and—and—above all, by the absence of tradespeople, who are quite inconsistent with paradise, and who have an amalgamation of themselves at the Guildhall every fortnight, which is, to say the least, remarkable. Good-bye, good-bye!’ and protesting all the way downstairs that he was most satisfied, and most delighted, and most overpowered, and most flattered, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, M.C., stepped into a very elegant chariot that waited at the door, and rattled off.

At the appointed hour, Mr. Pickwick and his friends, escorted by Dowler, repaired to the Assembly Rooms, and wrote their names down in the book—an instance of condescension at which Angelo Bantam was even more overpowered than before. Tickets of admission to that evening’s assembly were to have been prepared for the whole party, but as they were not ready, Mr. Pickwick undertook, despite all the protestations to the contrary of Angelo Bantam, to send Sam for them at four o’clock in the afternoon, to the M.C.‘s house in Queen Square. Having taken a short walk through the city, and arrived at the unanimous conclusion that Park Street was very much like the perpendicular streets a man sees in a dream, which he cannot get up for the life of him, they returned to the White Hart, and despatched Sam on the errand to which his master had pledged him.

Sam Weller put on his hat in a very easy and graceful manner, and, thrusting his hands in his waistcoat pockets, walked with great deliberation to Queen Square, whistling as he went along, several of the most popular airs of the day, as arranged with entirely new movements for that noble instrument the organ, either mouth or barrel. Arriving at the number in Queen Square to which he had been directed, he left off whistling and gave a cheerful knock, which was instantaneously answered by a powdered-headed footman in gorgeous livery, and of symmetrical stature.

‘Is this here Mr. Bantam’s, old feller?’ inquired Sam Weller, nothing abashed by the blaze of splendour which burst upon his sight in the person of the powdered-headed footman with the gorgeous livery.

‘Why, young man?’ was the haughty inquiry of the powdered-headed footman.

‘’Cos if it is, jist you step in to him with that ‘ere card, and say Mr. Veller’s a-waitin’, will you?’ said Sam. And saying it, he very coolly walked into the hall, and sat down.

The powdered-headed footman slammed the door very hard, and scowled very grandly; but both the slam and the scowl were lost upon Sam, who was regarding a mahogany umbrella-stand with every outward token of critical approval.

Apparently his master’s reception of the card had impressed the powdered-headed footman in Sam’s favour, for when he came back from delivering it, he smiled in a friendly manner, and said that the answer would be ready directly.

‘Wery good,’ said Sam. ‘Tell the old gen’l’m’n not to put himself in a perspiration. No hurry, six-foot. I’ve had my dinner.’

‘You dine early, sir,’ said the powdered-headed footman.

‘I find I gets on better at supper when I does,’ replied Sam.

‘Have you been long in Bath, sir?’ inquired the powdered-headed footman. ‘I have not had the pleasure of hearing of you before.’

‘I haven’t created any wery surprisin’ sensation here, as yet,’ rejoined Sam, ‘for me and the other fash’nables only come last night.’

‘Nice place, Sir,’ said the powdered-headed footman.

‘Seems so,’ observed Sam.

‘Pleasant society, sir,’ remarked the powdered-headed footman. ‘Very agreeable servants, sir.’

‘I should think they wos,’ replied Sam. ‘Affable, unaffected, say-nothin’-to-nobody sorts o’ fellers.’

‘Oh, very much so, indeed, sir,’ said the powdered-headed footman, taking Sam’s remarks as a high compliment. ‘Very much so indeed. Do you do anything in this way, Sir?’ inquired the tall footman, producing a small snuff-box with a fox’s head on the top of it.

‘Not without sneezing,’ replied Sam.

‘Why, it is difficult, sir, I confess,’ said the tall footman. ‘It may be done by degrees, Sir. Coffee is the best practice. I carried coffee, Sir, for a long time. It looks very like rappee, sir.’

Here, a sharp peal at the bell reduced the powdered-headed footman to the ignominious necessity of putting the fox’s head in his pocket, and hastening with a humble countenance to Mr. Bantam’s ‘study.’ By the bye, who ever knew a man who never read or wrote either, who hadn’t got some small back parlour which he would call a study!

‘There is the answer, sir,’ said the powdered-headed footman. ‘I’m afraid you’ll find it inconveniently large.’

‘Don’t mention it,’ said Sam, taking a letter with a small enclosure. ‘It’s just possible as exhausted natur’ may manage to surwive it.’

‘I hope we shall meet again, Sir,’ said the powdered-headed footman, rubbing his hands, and following Sam out to the door-step.

‘You are wery obligin’, sir,’ replied Sam. ‘Now, don’t allow yourself to be fatigued beyond your powers; there’s a amiable bein’. Consider what you owe to society, and don’t let yourself be injured by too much work. For the sake o’ your feller-creeturs, keep yourself as quiet as you can; only think what a loss you would be!’ With these pathetic words, Sam Weller departed.

‘A very singular young man that,’ said the powdered-headed footman, looking after Mr. Weller, with a countenance which clearly showed he could make nothing of him.

Sam said nothing at all. He winked, shook his head, smiled, winked again; and, with an expression of countenance which seemed to denote that he was greatly amused with something or other, walked merrily away.

At precisely twenty minutes before eight o’clock that night, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esq., the Master of the Ceremonies, emerged from his chariot at the door of the Assembly Rooms in the same wig, the same teeth, the same eye-glass, the same watch and seals, the same rings, the same shirt-pin, and the same cane. The only observable alterations in his appearance were, that he wore a brighter blue coat, with a white silk lining, black tights, black silk stockings, and pumps, and a white waistcoat, and was, if possible, just a thought more scented.

Thus attired, the Master of the Ceremonies, in strict discharge of the important duties of his all-important office, planted himself in the room to receive the company.

Bath being full, the company, and the sixpences for tea, poured in, in shoals. In the ballroom, the long card-room, the octagonal card-room, the staircases, and the passages, the hum of many voices, and the sound of many feet, were perfectly bewildering. Dresses rustled, feathers waved, lights shone, and jewels sparkled. There was the music—not of the quadrille band, for it had not yet commenced; but the music of soft, tiny footsteps, with now and then a clear, merry laugh—low and gentle, but very pleasant to hear in a female voice, whether in Bath or elsewhere. Brilliant eyes, lighted up with pleasurable expectation, gleamed from every side; and, look where you would, some exquisite form glided gracefully through the throng, and was no sooner lost, than it was replaced by another as dainty and bewitching.

In the tea-room, and hovering round the card-tables, were a vast number of queer old ladies, and decrepit old gentlemen, discussing all the small talk and scandal of the day, with a relish and gusto which sufficiently bespoke the intensity of the pleasure they derived from the occupation. Mingled with these groups, were three or four match-making mammas, appearing to be wholly absorbed by the conversation in which they were taking part, but failing not from time to time to cast an anxious sidelong glance upon their daughters, who, remembering the maternal injunction to make the best use of their youth, had already commenced incipient flirtations in the mislaying scarves, putting on gloves, setting down cups, and so forth; slight matters apparently, but which may be turned to surprisingly good account by expert practitioners.

Lounging near the doors, and in remote corners, were various knots of silly young men, displaying various varieties of puppyism and stupidity; amusing all sensible people near them with their folly and conceit; and happily thinking themselves the objects of general admiration—a wise and merciful dispensation which no good man will quarrel with.

And lastly, seated on some of the back benches, where they had already taken up their positions for the evening, were divers unmarried ladies past their grand climacteric, who, not dancing because there were no partners for them, and not playing cards lest they should be set down as irretrievably single, were in the favourable situation of being able to abuse everybody without reflecting on themselves. In short, they could abuse everybody, because everybody was there. It was a scene of gaiety, glitter, and show; of richly-dressed people, handsome mirrors, chalked floors, girandoles and wax-candles; and in all parts of the scene, gliding from spot to spot in silent softness, bowing obsequiously to this party, nodding familiarly to that, and smiling complacently on all, was the sprucely-attired person of Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, the Master of the Ceremonies.

‘Stop in the tea-room. Take your sixpenn’orth. Then lay on hot water, and call it tea. Drink it,’ said Mr. Dowler, in a loud voice, directing Mr. Pickwick, who advanced at the head of the little party, with Mrs. Dowler on his arm. Into the tea-room Mr. Pickwick turned; and catching sight of him, Mr. Bantam corkscrewed his way through the crowd and welcomed him with ecstasy.

‘My dear Sir, I am highly honoured. Ba—ath is favoured. Mrs. Dowler, you embellish the rooms. I congratulate you on your feathers. Re-markable!’

‘Anybody here?’ inquired Dowler suspiciously.

‘Anybody! The elite of Ba—ath. Mr. Pickwick, do you see the old lady in the gauze turban?’

‘The fat old lady?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick innocently.

‘Hush, my dear sir—nobody’s fat or old in Ba—ath. That’s the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph.’

‘Is it, indeed?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘No less a person, I assure you,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies. ‘Hush. Draw a little nearer, Mr. Pickwick. You see the splendidly-dressed young man coming this way?’

‘The one with the long hair, and the particularly small forehead?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘The same. The richest young man in Ba—ath at this moment. Young Lord Mutanhed.’

‘You don’t say so?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes. You’ll hear his voice in a moment, Mr. Pickwick. He’ll speak to me. The other gentleman with him, in the red under-waistcoat and dark moustache, is the Honourable Mr. Crushton, his bosom friend. How do you do, my Lord?’

‘Veway hot, Bantam,’ said his Lordship.

‘It is very warm, my Lord,’ replied the M.C.

‘Confounded,’ assented the Honourable Mr. Crushton.

‘Have you seen his Lordship’s mail-cart, Bantam?’ inquired the Honourable Mr. Crushton, after a short pause, during which young Lord Mutanhed had been endeavouring to stare Mr. Pickwick out of countenance, and Mr. Crushton had been reflecting what subject his Lordship could talk about best.

‘Dear me, no,’ replied the M.C. ‘A mail-cart! What an excellent idea. Re-markable!’

‘Gwacious heavens!’ said his Lordship, ‘I thought evewebody had seen the new mail-cart; it’s the neatest, pwettiest, gwacefullest thing that ever wan upon wheels. Painted wed, with a cweam piebald.’

‘With a real box for the letters, and all complete,’ said the Honourable Mr. Crushton.

‘And a little seat in fwont, with an iwon wail, for the dwiver,’ added his Lordship. ‘I dwove it over to Bwistol the other morning, in a cwimson coat, with two servants widing a quarter of a mile behind; and confound me if the people didn’t wush out of their cottages, and awest my pwogwess, to know if I wasn’t the post. Glorwious—glorwious!’

At this anecdote his Lordship laughed very heartily, as did the listeners, of course. Then, drawing his arm through that of the obsequious Mr. Crushton, Lord Mutanhed walked away.

‘Delightful young man, his Lordship,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies.

‘So I should think,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick drily.

The dancing having commenced, the necessary introductions having been made, and all preliminaries arranged, Angelo Bantam rejoined Mr. Pickwick, and led him into the card-room.

Just at the very moment of their entrance, the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph and two other ladies of an ancient and whist-like appearance, were hovering over an unoccupied card-table; and they no sooner set eyes upon Mr. Pickwick under the convoy of Angelo Bantam, than they exchanged glances with each other, seeing that he was precisely the very person they wanted, to make up the rubber.

‘My dear Bantam,’ said the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph coaxingly, ‘find us some nice creature to make up this table; there’s a good soul.’ Mr. Pickwick happened to be looking another way at the moment, so her Ladyship nodded her head towards him, and frowned expressively.

‘My friend Mr. Pickwick, my Lady, will be most happy, I am sure, remarkably so,’ said the M.C., taking the hint. ‘Mr. Pickwick, Lady Snuphanuph—Mrs. Colonel Wugsby—Miss Bolo.’

Mr. Pickwick bowed to each of the ladies, and, finding escape impossible, cut. Mr. Pickwick and Miss Bolo against Lady Snuphanuph and Mrs. Colonel Wugsby.

As the trump card was turned up, at the commencement of the second deal, two young ladies hurried into the room, and took their stations on either side of Mrs. Colonel Wugsby’s chair, where they waited patiently until the hand was over.

‘Now, Jane,’ said Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, turning to one of the girls, ‘what is it?’

I came to ask, ma, whether I might dance with the youngest Mr. Crawley,’ whispered the prettier and younger of the two.

‘Good God, Jane, how can you think of such things?’ replied the mamma indignantly. ‘Haven’t you repeatedly heard that his father has eight hundred a year, which dies with him? I am ashamed of you. Not on any account.’

‘Ma,’ whispered the other, who was much older than her sister, and very insipid and artificial, ‘Lord Mutanhed has been introduced to me. I said I thought I wasn’t engaged, ma.’

‘You’re a sweet pet, my love,’ replied Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, tapping her daughter’s cheek with her fan, ‘and are always to be trusted. He’s immensely rich, my dear. Bless you!’ With these words Mrs. Colonel Wugsby kissed her eldest daughter most affectionately, and frowning in a warning manner upon the other, sorted her cards.

Poor Mr. Pickwick! he had never played with three thorough-paced female card-players before. They were so desperately sharp, that they quite frightened him. If he played a wrong card, Miss Bolo looked a small armoury of daggers; if he stopped to consider which was the right one, Lady Snuphanuph would throw herself back in her chair, and smile with a mingled glance of impatience and pity to Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, at which Mrs. Colonel Wugsby would shrug up her shoulders, and cough, as much as to say she wondered whether he ever would begin. Then, at the end of every hand, Miss Bolo would inquire with a dismal countenance and reproachful sigh, why Mr. Pickwick had not returned that diamond, or led the club, or roughed the spade, or finessed the heart, or led through the honour, or brought out the ace, or played up to the king, or some such thing; and in reply to all these grave charges, Mr. Pickwick would be wholly unable to plead any justification whatever, having by this time forgotten all about the game. People came and looked on, too, which made Mr. Pickwick nervous. Besides all this, there was a great deal of distracting conversation near the table, between Angelo Bantam and the two Misses Matinter, who, being single and singular, paid great court to the Master of the Ceremonies, in the hope of getting a stray partner now and then. All these things, combined with the noises and interruptions of constant comings in and goings out, made Mr. Pickwick play rather badly; the cards were against him, also; and when they left off at ten minutes past eleven, Miss Bolo rose from the table considerably agitated, and went straight home, in a flood of tears and a sedan-chair.

Being joined by his friends, who one and all protested that they had scarcely ever spent a more pleasant evening, Mr. Pickwick accompanied them to the White Hart, and having soothed his feelings with something hot, went to bed, and to sleep, almost simultaneously.