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Chapter 20


  WELLER AND HIS LONG-LOST PARENT;SHOWING ALSO WHAT CHOICE SPIRITSASSEMBLED AT THE MAGPIE AND STUMP,AND WHAT A CAPITAL CHAPTER THE NEXTONE WILL BEn the ground-floor front of a dingy house, at the very farthestend of Freeman’s Court, Cornhill, sat the four clerks ofMessrs. Dodson & Fogg, two of his Majesty’s attorneys of the courts of King’s Bench and Common Pleas at Westminster, andsolicitors of the High Court of Chancery―the aforesaid clerkscatching as favourable glimpses of heaven’s light and heaven’ssun, in the course of their daily labours, as a man might hope todo, were he placed at the bottom of a reasonably deep well; andwithout the opportunity of perceiving the stars in the day-time,which the latter secluded situation affords.

  The clerks’ office of Messrs. Dodson & Fogg was a dark,mouldy, earthy-smelling room, with a high wainscotted partitionto screen the clerks from the vulgar gaze, a couple of old woodenchairs, a very loud-ticking clock, an almanac, an umbrella-stand, arow of hat-pegs, and a few shelves, on which were depositedseveral ticketed bundles of dirty papers, some old deal boxes withpaper labels, and sundry decayed stone ink bottles of variousshapes and sizes. There was a glass door leading into the passagewhich formed the entrance to the court, and on the outer side ofthis glass door, Mr. Pickwick, closely followed by Sam Weller,presented himself on the Friday morning succeeding theoccurrence of which a faithful narration is given in the lastchapter.

  ‘Come in, can’t you!’ cried a voice from behind the partition, inreply to Mr. Pickwick’s gentle tap at the door. And Mr. Pickwickand Sam entered accordingly.

  ‘Mr. Dodson or Mr. Fogg at home, sir?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick,gently, advancing, hat in hand, towards the partition.

  ‘Mr. Dodson ain’t at home, and Mr. Fogg’s particularlyengaged,’ replied the voice; and at the same time the head towhich the voice belonged, with a pen behind its ear, looked overthe partition, and at Mr. Pickwick.

  it was a ragged head, the sandy hair of which, scrupulouslyparted on one side, and flattened down with pomatum, wastwisted into little semi-circular tails round a flat face ornamentedwith a pair of small eyes, and garnished with a very dirty shirtcollar, and a rusty black stock.

  ‘Mr. Dodson ain’t at home, and Mr. Fogg’s particularlyengaged,’ said the man to whom the head belonged.

  ‘When will Mr. Dodson be back, sir?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Can’t say.’

  ‘Will it be long before Mr. Fogg is disengaged, sir?’

  ‘Don’t know.’

  Here the man proceeded to mend his pen with greatdeliberation, while another clerk, who was mixing a Seidlitzpowder, under cover of the lid of his desk, laughed approvingly.

  ‘I think I’ll wait,’ said Mr. Pickwick. There was no reply; so Mr.

  Pickwick sat down unbidden, and listened to the loud ticking ofthe clock and the murmured conversation of the clerks.

  ‘That was a game, wasn’t it?’ said one of the gentlemen, in abrown coat and brass buttons, inky drabs, and bluchers, at theconclusion of some inaudible relation of his previous evening’sadventures.

  ‘Devilish good―devilish good,’ said the Seidlitz-powder man.

  ‘Tom Cummins was in the chair,’ said the man with the browncoat. ‘It was half-past four when I got to Somers Town, and then Iwas so uncommon lushy, that I couldn’t find the place where thelatch-key went in, and was obliged to knock up the old ’ooman. Isay, I wonder what old Fogg ’ud say, if he knew it. I should get thesack, I s’pose―eh?’

  At this humorous notion, all the clerks laughed in concert.

  ‘There was such a game with Fogg here, this mornin’,’ said theman in the brown coat, ‘while Jack was upstairs sorting thepapers, and you two were gone to the stamp-office. Fogg wasdown here, opening the letters when that chap as we issued thewrit against at Camberwell, you know, came in―what’s his nameagain?’

  ‘Ramsey,’ said the clerk who had spoken to Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Ah, Ramsey―a precious seedy-looking customer. “Well, sir,”

  says old Fogg, looking at him very fierce―you know his way―“well, sir, have you come to settle?” “Yes, I have, sir,” saidRamsey, putting his hand in his pocket, and bringing out themoney, “the debt’s two pound ten, and the costs three pound five,and here it is, sir;” and he sighed like bricks, as he lugged out themoney, done up in a bit of blotting-paper. Old Fogg looked first atthe money, and then at him, and then he coughed in his rum way,so that I knew something was coming. “You don’t know there’s adeclaration filed, which increases the costs materially, I suppose,”

  said Fogg. “You don’t say that, sir,” said Ramsey, starting back;“the time was only out last night, sir.” “I do say it, though,” saidFogg, “my clerk’s just gone to file it. Hasn’t Mr. Jackson gone tofile that declaration in Bullman and Ramsey, Mr. Wicks?” Ofcourse I said yes, and then Fogg coughed again, and looked atRamsey. “My God!” said Ramsey; “and here have I nearly drivenmyself mad, scraping this money together, and all to no purpose.”

  “None at all,” said Fogg coolly; “so you had better go back andscrape some more together, and bring it here in time.” “I can’t getit, by God!” said Ramsey, striking the desk with his fist. “Don’tbully me, sir,” said Fogg, getting into a passion on purpose. “I amnot bullying you, sir,” said Ramsey. “You are,” said Fogg; “get out,sir; get out of this office, sir, and come back, sir, when you knowhow to behave yourself.” Well, Ramsey tried to speak, but Foggwouldn’t let him, so he put the money in his pocket, and sneakedout. The door was scarcely shut, when old Fogg turned round tome, with a sweet smile on his face, and drew the declaration out ofhis coat pocket. “Here, Wicks,” says Fogg, “take a cab, and godown to the Temple as quick as you can, and file that. The costsare quite safe, for he’s a steady man with a large family, at a salaryof five-and-twenty shillings a week, and if he gives us a warrant ofattorney, as he must in the end, I know his employers will see itpaid; so we may as well get all we can get out of him, Mr. Wicks;it’s a Christian act to do it, Mr. Wicks, for with his large family andsmall income, he’ll be all the better for a good lesson againstgetting into debt―won’t he, Mr. Wicks, won’t he?”―and he smiledso good-naturedly as he went away, that it was delightful to seehim. He is a capital man of business,’ said Wicks, in a tone of thedeepest admiration, ‘capital, isn’t he?’

  The other three cordially subscribed to this opinion, and theanecdote afforded the most unlimited satisfaction.

  ‘Nice men these here, sir,’ whispered Mr. Weller to his master;‘wery nice notion of fun they has, sir.’

  Mr. Pickwick nodded assent, and coughed to attract theattention of the young gentlemen behind the partition, who,having now relaxed their minds by a little conversation amongthemselves, condescended to take some notice of the stranger.

  ‘I wonder whether Fogg’s disengaged now?’ said Jackson.

  ‘I’ll see,’ said Wicks, dismounting leisurely from his stool. ‘Whatname shall I tell Mr. Fogg?’

  ‘Pickwick,’ replied the illustrious subject of these memoirs.

  Mr. Jackson departed upstairs on his errand, and immediatelyreturned with a message that Mr. Fogg would see Mr. Pickwick infive minutes; and having delivered it, returned again to his desk.

  ‘What did he say his name was?’ whispered Wicks.

  ‘Pickwick,’ replied Jackson; ‘it’s the defendant in Bardell andPickwick.’

  A sudden scraping of feet, mingled with the sound ofsuppressed laughter, was heard from behind the partition.

  ‘They’re a-twiggin’ of you, sir,’ whispered Mr. Weller.

  ‘Twigging of me, Sam!’ replied Mr. Pickwick; ‘what do youmean by twigging me?’

  Mr. Weller replied by pointing with his thumb over hisshoulder, and Mr. Pickwick, on looking up, became sensible of thepleasing fact, that all the four clerks, with countenancesexpressive of the utmost amusement, and with their heads thrustover the wooden screen, were minutely inspecting the figure andgeneral appearance of the supposed trifler with female hearts, anddisturber of female happiness. On his looking up, the row of headssuddenly disappeared, and the sound of pens travelling at afurious rate over paper, immediately succeeded.

  A sudden ring at the bell which hung in the office, summonedMr. Jackson to the apartment of Fogg, from whence he came backto say that he (Fogg) was ready to see Mr. Pickwick if he wouldstep upstairs. Upstairs Mr. Pickwick did step accordingly, leavingSam Weller below. The room door of the one-pair back, boreinscribed in legible characters the imposing words, ‘Mr. Fogg’;and, having tapped thereat, and been desired to come in, Jacksonushered Mr. Pickwick into the presence.

  ‘Is Mr. Dodson in?’ inquired Mr. Fogg.

  ‘Just come in, sir,’ replied Jackson.

  ‘Ask him to step here.’

  ‘Yes, sir.’ Exit Jackson.

  ‘Take a seat, sir,’ said Fogg; ‘there is the paper, sir; my partnerwill be here directly, and we can converse about this matter, sir.’

  Mr. Pickwick took a seat and the paper, but, instead of readingthe latter, peeped over the top of it, and took a survey of the manof business, who was an elderly, pimply-faced, vegetable-diet sortof man, in a black coat, dark mixture trousers, and small blackgaiters; a kind of being who seemed to be an essential part of thedesk at which he was writing, and to have as much thought orfeeling.

  After a few minutes’ silence, Mr. Dodson, a plump, portly, stern-looking man, with a loud voice, appeared; and the conversationcommenced.

  ‘This is Mr. Pickwick,’ said Fogg.

  ‘Ah! You are the defendant, sir, in Bardell and Pickwick?’ saidDodson.

  ‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Well, sir,’ said Dodson, ‘and what do you propose?’

  ‘Ah!’ said Fogg, thrusting his hands into his trousers’ pockets,and throwing himself back in his chair, ‘what do you propose, MrPickwick?’

  ‘Hush, Fogg,’ said Dodson, ‘let me hear what Mr. Pickwick hasto say.’

  ‘I came, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick, gazing placidly on thetwo partners, ‘I came here, gentlemen, to express the surprisewith which I received your letter of the other day, and to inquirewhat grounds of action you can have against me.’

  ‘Grounds of―’ Fogg had ejaculated this much, when he wasstopped by Dodson.

  ‘Mr. Fogg,’ said Dodson, ‘I am going to speak.’

  ‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Dodson,’ said Fogg.

  ‘For the grounds of action, sir,’ continued Dodson, with moralelevation in his air, ‘you will consult your own conscience and yourown feelings. We, sir, we, are guided entirely by the statement ofour client. That statement, sir, may be true, or it may be false; itmay be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true, and if itbe credible, I do not hesitate to say, sir, that our grounds of action,sir, are strong, and not to be shaken. You may be an unfortunateman, sir, or you may be a designing one; but if I were called upon,as a juryman upon my oath, sir, to express an opinion of yourconduct, sir, I do not hesitate to assert that I should have but oneopinion about it.’ Here Dodson drew himself up, with an air ofoffended virtue, and looked at Fogg, who thrust his hands fartherin his pockets, and nodding his head sagely, said, in a tone of thefullest concurrence, ‘Most certainly.’

  ‘Well, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with considerable pain depicted inhis countenance, ‘you will permit me to assure you that I am amost unfortunate man, so far as this case is concerned.’

  ‘I hope you are, sir,’ replied Dodson; ‘I trust you may be, sir. Ifyou are really innocent of what is laid to your charge, you aremore unfortunate than I had believed any man could possibly be.

  What do you say, Mr. Fogg?’

  ‘I say precisely what you say,’ replied Fogg, with a smile ofincredulity.

  ‘The writ, sir, which commences the action,’ continued Dodson,‘was issued regularly. Mr. Fogg, where is the praecipe book?’

  ‘Here it is,’ said Fogg, handing over a square book, with aparchment cover.

  ‘Here is the entry,’ resumed Dodson. ‘“Middlesex, CapiasMartha Bardell, widow, v. Samuel Pickwick. Damages ?1500.

  Dodson & Fogg for the plaintiff, Aug. 28, 1827.” All regular, sir;perfectly.’ Dodson coughed and looked at Fogg, who said‘Perfectly,’ also. And then they both looked at Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘I am to understand, then,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘that it really isyour intention to proceed with this action?’

  ‘Understand, sir!―that you certainly may,’ replied Dodson,with something as near a smile as his importance would allow.

  ‘And that the damages are actually laid at fifteen hundredpounds?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘To which understanding you may add my assurance, that if wecould have prevailed upon our client, they would have been laid attreble the amount, sir,’ replied Dodson. ‘I believe Mrs. Bardellspecially said, however,’ observed Fogg, glancing at Dodson, ‘thatshe would not compromise for a farthing less.’

  ‘Unquestionably,’ replied Dodson sternly. For the action wasonly just begun; and it wouldn’t have done to let Mr. Pickwickcompromise it then, even if he had been so disposed.

  ‘As you offer no terms, sir,’ said Dodson, displaying a slip ofparchment in his right hand, and affectionately pressing a papercopy of it, on Mr. Pickwick with his left, ‘I had better serve youwith a copy of this writ, sir. Here is the original, sir.’

  ‘Very well, gentlemen, very well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rising inperson and wrath at the same time; ‘you shall hear from mysolicitor, gentlemen.’

  ‘We shall be very happy to do so,’ said Fogg, rubbing his hands. ‘Very,’ said Dodson, opening the door.

  ‘And before I go, gentlemen,’ said the excited Mr. Pickwick,turning round on the landing, ‘permit me to say, that of all thedisgraceful and rascally proceedings―’

  ‘Stay, sir, stay,’ interposed Dodson, with great politeness. ‘Mr.

  Jackson! Mr. Wicks!’

  ‘Sir,’ said the two clerks, appearing at the bottom of the stairs.

  ‘I merely want you to hear what this gentleman says,’ repliedDodson. ‘Pray, go on, sir―disgraceful and rascally proceedings, Ithink you said?’

  ‘I did,’ said Mr. Pickwick, thoroughly roused. ‘I said, sir, that ofall the disgraceful and rascally proceedings that ever wereattempted, this is the most so. I repeat it, sir.’

  ‘You hear that, Mr. Wicks,’ said Dodson.

  ‘You won’t forget these expressions, Mr. Jackson?’ said Fogg.

  ‘Perhaps you would like to call us swindlers, sir,’ said Dodson.

  ‘Pray do, sir, if you feel disposed; now pray do, sir.’

  ‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘You are swindlers.’

  ‘Very good,’ said Dodson. ‘You can hear down there, I hope, Mr.


  ‘Oh, yes, sir,’ said Wicks.

  ‘You had better come up a step or two higher, if you can’t,’

  added Mr. Fogg. ‘Go on, sir; do go on. You had better call usthieves, sir; or perhaps You would like to assault one Of US. Praydo it, sir, if you would; we will not make the smallest resistance.

  Pray do it, sir.’

  As Fogg put himself very temptingly within the reach of Mr.

  Pickwick’s clenched fist, there is little doubt that that gentlemanwould have complied with his earnest entreaty, but for theinterposition of Sam, who, hearing the dispute, emerged from theoffice, mounted the stairs, and seized his master by the arm.

  ‘You just come avay,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘Battledore andshuttlecock’s a wery good game, vhen you ain’t the shuttlecockand two lawyers the battledores, in which case it gets too excitin’

  to be pleasant. Come avay, sir. If you want to ease your mind byblowing up somebody, come out into the court and blow up me;but it’s rayther too expensive work to be carried on here.’

  And without the slightest ceremony, Mr. Weller hauled hismaster down the stairs, and down the court, and having safelydeposited him in Cornhill, fell behind, prepared to followwhithersoever he should lead.

  Mr. Pickwick walked on abstractedly, crossed opposite theMansion House, and bent his steps up Cheapside. Sam began towonder where they were going, when his master turned round,and said―‘Sam, I will go immediately to Mr. Perker’s.’

  ‘That’s just exactly the wery place vere you ought to have gonelast night, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

  ‘I think it is, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘I know it is,’ said Mr. Weller.

  ‘Well, well, Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘we will go there atonce; but first, as I have been rather ruffled, I should like a glass ofbrandy-and-water warm, Sam. Where can I have it, Sam?’

  Mr. Weller’s knowledge of London was extensive and peculiar.

  He replied, without the slightest consideration―‘Second court on the right hand side―last house but vun on thesame side the vay―take the box as stands in the first fireplace,‘cos there ain’t no leg in the middle o’ the table, which all theothers has, and it’s wery inconvenient.’

  Mr. Pickwick observed his valet’s directions implicitly, andbidding Sam follow him, entered the tavern he had pointed out,where the hot brandy-and-water was speedily placed before him;while Mr. Weller, seated at a respectful distance, though at thesame table with his master, was accommodated with a pint ofporter.

  The room was one of a very homely description, and wasapparently under the especial patronage of stage-coachmen; forseveral gentleman, who had all the appearance of belonging tothat learned profession, were drinking and smoking in thedifferent boxes. Among the number was one stout, red-faced,elderly man, in particular, seated in an opposite box, whoattracted Mr. Pickwick’s attention. The stout man was smokingwith great vehemence, but between every half-dozen puffs, hetook his pipe from his mouth, and looked first at Mr. Weller andthen at Mr. Pickwick. Then, he would bury in a quart pot, as muchof his countenance as the dimensions of the quart pot admitted ofits receiving, and take another look at Sam and Mr. Pickwick.

  Then he would take another half-dozen puffs with an air ofprofound meditation and look at them again. At last the stoutman,putting up his legs on the seat, and leaning his back against thewall, began to puff at his pipe without leaving off at all, and tostare through the smoke at the new-comers, as if he had made uphis mind to see the most he could of them.

  At first the evolutions of the stout man had escaped Mr.

  Weller’s observation, but by degrees, as he saw Mr. Pickwick’seyes every now and then turning towards him, he began to gaze inthe same direction, at the same time shading his eyes with hishand, as if he partially recognised the object before him, andwished to make quite sure of its identity. His doubts were speedilydispelled, however; for the stout man having blown a thick cloudfrom his pipe, a hoarse voice, like some strange effort ofventriloquism, emerged from beneath the capacious shawls whichmuffled his throat and chest, and slowly uttered these sounds―‘Wy, Sammy!’

  ‘Who’s that, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Why, I wouldn’t ha’ believed it, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, withastonished eyes. ‘It’s the old ’un .’

  ‘Old one,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘What old one?’

  ‘My father, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘How are you, my ancient?’

  And with this beautiful ebullition of filial affection, Mr. Wellermade room on the seat beside him, for the stout man, whoadvanced pipe in mouth and pot in hand, to greet him.

  ‘Wy, Sammy,’ said the father, ‘I ha’n’t seen you, for two yearand better.’

  ‘Nor more you have, old codger,’ replied the son. ‘How’smother-in-law?’

  ‘Wy, I’ll tell you what, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, senior, withmuch solemnity in his manner; ‘there never was a nicer woman asa widder, than that ’ere second wentur o’ mine―a sweet creeturshe was, Sammy; all I can say on her now, is, that as she was suchan uncommon pleasant widder, it’s a great pity she ever changedher condition. She don’t act as a vife, Sammy.’

  ‘Don’t she, though?’ inquired Mr. Weller, junior.

  The elder Mr. Weller shook his head, as he replied with a sigh,‘I’ve done it once too often, Sammy; I’ve done it once too often.

  Take example by your father, my boy, and be wery careful o’

  widders all your life, ’specially if they’ve kept a public-house,Sammy.’ Having delivered this parental advice with great pathos,Mr. Weller, senior, refilled his pipe from a tin box he carried in hispocket; and, lighting his fresh pipe from the ashes of the old One,commenced smoking at a great rate.

  ‘Beg your pardon, sir,’ he said, renewing the subject, andaddressing Mr. Pickwick, after a considerable pause, ‘nothin’

  personal, I hope, sir; I hope you ha’n’t got a widder, sir.’

  ‘Not I,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, laughing; and while Mr. Pickwicklaughed, Sam Weller informed his parent in a whisper, of therelation in which he stood towards that gentleman.

  ‘Beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mr. Weller, senior, taking off his hat,‘I hope you’ve no fault to find with Sammy, sir?’

  ‘None whatever,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Wery glad to hear it, sir,’ replied the old man; ‘I took a gooddeal o’ pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streetswhen he was wery young, and shift for hisself. It’s the only way tomake a boy sharp, sir.’

  ‘Rather a dangerous process, I should imagine,’ said Mr.

  Pickwick, with a smile.

  ‘And not a wery sure one, neither,’ added Mr. Weller; ‘I gotreg’larly done the other day.’

  ‘No!’ said his father.

  ‘I did,’ said the son; and he proceeded to relate, in as few wordsas possible, how he had fallen a ready dupe to the stratagems ofJob Trotter.

  Mr. Weller, senior, listened to the tale with the most profoundattention, and, at its termination, said―‘Worn’t one o’ these chaps slim and tall, with long hair, and thegift o’ the gab wery gallopin’?’

  Mr. Pickwick did not quite understand the last item ofdescription, but, comprehending the first, said ‘Yes,’ at a venture.

  ‘T’ other’s a black-haired chap in mulberry livery, with a werylarge head?’

  ‘Yes, yes, he is,’ said Mr. Pickwick and Sam, with greatearnestness. ‘Then I know where they are, and that’s all about it,’

  said Mr. Weller; ‘they’re at Ipswich, safe enough, them two.’

  ‘No!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Fact,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘and I’ll tell you how I know it. I work anIpswich coach now and then for a friend o’ mine. I worked downthe wery day arter the night as you caught the rheumatic, and atthe Black Boy at Chelmsford―the wery place they’d come to―Itook ’em up, right through to Ipswich, where the man-servant―him in the mulberries―told me they was a-goin’ to put up for along time.’

  ‘I’ll follow him,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘we may as well see Ipswichas any other place. I’ll follow him.’

  ‘You’re quite certain it was them, governor?’ inquired Mr.

  Weller, junior.

  ‘Quite, Sammy, quite,’ replied his father, ‘for their appearanceis wery sing’ler; besides that ’ere, I wondered to see the gen’l’m’nso formiliar with his servant; and, more than that, as they sat inthe front, right behind the box, I heerd ’em laughing and sayinghow they’d done old Fireworks.’

  ‘Old who?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Old Fireworks, sir; by which, I’ve no doubt, they meant you,sir.’ There is nothing positively vile or atrocious in the appellationof ‘old Fireworks,’ but still it is by no means a respectful orflattering designation. The recollection of all the wrongs he hadsustained at Jingle’s hands, had crowded on Mr. Pickwick’s mind,the moment Mr. Weller began to speak; it wanted but a feather toturn the scale, and ‘old Fireworks’ did it.

  ‘I’ll follow him,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow onthe table.

  ‘I shall work down to Ipswich the day arter to-morrow, sir,’ saidMr. Weller the elder, ‘from the Bull in Whitechapel; and if youreally mean to go, you’d better go with me.’

  ‘So we had,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘very true; I can write to Bury,and tell them to meet me at Ipswich. We will go with you. Butdon’t hurry away, Mr. Weller; won’t you take anything?’

  ‘You’re wery good, sir,’ replied Mr. W., stopping short;―‘perhaps a small glass of brandy to drink your health, and successto Sammy, sir, wouldn’t be amiss.’

  ‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘A glass of brandy here!’

  The brandy was brought; and Mr. Weller, after pulling his hair toMr. Pickwick, and nodding to Sam, jerked it down his capaciousthroat as if it had been a small thimbleful. ‘Well done, father,’ saidSam, ‘take care, old fellow, or you’ll have a touch of your oldcomplaint, the gout.’

  ‘I’ve found a sov’rin’ cure for that, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller,setting down the glass.

  ‘A sovereign cure for the gout,’ said Mr. Pickwick, hastilyproducing his note-book―‘what is it?’

  ‘The gout, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘the gout is a complaint asarises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you’re attackedwith the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loudwoice, with a decent notion of usin’ it, and you’ll never have thegout agin. It’s a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg’lar, and I canwarrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too muchjollity.’ Having imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drainedhis glass once more, produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply, andslowly retired.

  ‘Well, what do you think of what your father says, Sam?’

  inquired Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.

  ‘Think, sir!’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘why, I think he’s the wictim o’

  connubiality, as Blue Beard’s domestic chaplain said, vith a tear ofpity, ven he buried him.’

  There was no replying to this very apposite conclusion, and, therefore, Mr. Pickwick, after settling the reckoning, resumed hiswalk to Gray’s Inn. By the time he reached its secluded groves,however, eight o’clock had struck, and the unbroken stream ofgentlemen in muddy high-lows, soiled white hats, and rustyapparel, who were pouring towards the different avenues ofegress, warned him that the majority of the offices had closed forthat day.

  After climbing two pairs of steep and dirty stairs, he found hisanticipations were realised. Mr. Perker’s ‘outer door’ was closed;and the dead silence which followed Mr. Weller’s repeated kicksthereat, announced that the officials had retired from business forthe night.

  ‘This is pleasant, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I shouldn’t lose anhour in seeing him; I shall not be able to get one wink of sleep to-night, I know, unless I have the satisfaction of reflecting that Ihave confided this matter to a professional man.’

  ‘Here’s an old ’ooman comin’ upstairs, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller;‘p’raps she knows where we can find somebody. Hollo, old lady,vere’s Mr. Perker’s people?’

  ‘Mr. Perker’s people,’ said a thin, miserable-looking old woman,stopping to recover breath after the ascent of the staircase―‘Mr.

  Perker’s people’s gone, and I’m a-goin’ to do the office out.’

  ‘Are you Mr. Perker’s servant?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘I am Mr. Perker’s laundress,’ replied the woman.

  ‘Ah,’ said Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Sam, ‘it’s a curiouscircumstance, Sam, that they call the old women in these inns,laundresses. I wonder what’s that for?’

  ‘‘Cos they has a mortal awersion to washing anythin’, I suppose,sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

  ‘I shouldn’t wonder,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking at the oldwoman, whose appearance, as well as the condition of the office,which she had by this time opened, indicated a rooted antipathy tothe application of soap and water; ‘do you know where I can findMr. Perker, my good woman?’

  ‘No, I don’t,’ replied the old woman gruffly; ‘he’s out o’ townnow.’

  ‘That’s unfortunate,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘where’s his clerk? Doyou know?’

  ‘Yes, I know where he is, but he won’t thank me for telling you,’

  replied the laundress.

  ‘I have very particular business with him,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Won’t it do in the morning?’ said the woman.

  ‘Not so well,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Well,’ said the old woman, ‘if it was anything very particular, Iwas to say where he was, so I suppose there’s no harm in telling. Ifyou just go to the Magpie and Stump, and ask at the bar for Mr.

  Lowten, they’ll show you in to him, and he’s Mr. Perker’s clerk.’

  With this direction, and having been furthermore informed thatthe hostelry in question was situated in a court, happy in thedouble advantage of being in the vicinity of Clare Market, andclosely approximating to the back of New Inn, Mr. Pickwick andSam descended the rickety staircase in safety, and issued forth inquest of the Magpie and Stump.

  This favoured tavern, sacred to the evening orgies of Mr.

  Lowten and his companions, was what ordinary people woulddesignate a public-house. That the landlord was a man of money-making turn was sufficiently testified by the fact of a smallbulkhead beneath the tap-room window, in size and shape notunlike a sedan-chair, being underlet to a mender of shoes: andthat he was a being of a philanthropic mind was evident from theprotection he afforded to a pieman, who vended his delicacieswithout fear of interruption, on the very door-step. In the lowerwindows, which were decorated with curtains of a saffron hue,dangled two or three printed cards, bearing reference toDevonshire cider and Dantzic spruce, while a large blackboard,announcing in white letters to an enlightened public, that therewere 500,000 barrels of double stout in the cellars of theestablishment, left the mind in a state of not unpleasing doubt anduncertainty as to the precise direction in the bowels of the earth,in which this mighty cavern might be supposed to extend. Whenwe add that the weather-beaten signboard bore the half-obliterated semblance of a magpie intently eyeing a crookedstreak of brown paint, which the neighbours had been taught frominfancy to consider as the ‘stump,’ we have said all that need besaid of the exterior of the edifice.

  On Mr. Pickwick’s presenting himself at the bar, an elderlyfemale emerged from behind the screen therein, and presentedherself before him.

  ‘Is Mr. Lowten here, ma’am?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

  ‘Yes, he is, sir,’ replied the landlady. ‘Here, Charley, show thegentleman in to Mr. Lowten.’

  ‘The gen’l’m’n can’t go in just now,’ said a shambling pot-boy,with a red head, ’cos’ Mr. Lowten’s a-singin’ a comic song, andhe’ll put him out. He’ll be done directly, sir.’

  The red-headed pot-boy had scarcely finished speaking, when amost unanimous hammering of tables, and jingling of glasses,announced that the song had that instant terminated; and Mr.

  Pickwick, after desiring Sam to solace himself in the tap, sufferedhimself to be conducted into the presence of Mr. Lowten.

  At the announcement of ‘A gentleman to speak to you, sir,’ apuffy-faced young man, who filled the chair at the head of thetable, looked with some surprise in the direction from whence thevoice proceeded; and the surprise seemed to be by no meansdiminished, when his eyes rested on an individual whom he hadnever seen before.

  ‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and I am very sorryto disturb the other gentlemen, too, but I come on very particularbusiness; and if you will suffer me to detain you at this end of theroom for five minutes, I shall be very much obliged to you.’

  The puffy-faced young man rose, and drawing a chair close toMr. Pickwick in an obscure corner of the room, listened attentivelyto his tale of woe.

  ‘Ah,’he said, when Mr. Pickwick had concluded, ‘Dodson andFogg―sharp practice theirs―capital men of business, Dodson andFogg, sir.’

  Mr. Pickwick admitted the sharp practice of Dodson and Fogg,and Lowten resumed. ‘Perker ain’t in town, and he won’t be,neither, before the end of next week; but if you want the actiondefended, and will leave the copy with me, I can do all that’sneedful till he comes back.’

  ‘That’s exactly what I came here for,’ said Mr. Pickwick,handing over the document. ‘If anything particular occurs, youcan write to me at the post-office, Ipswich.’

  ‘That’s all right,’ replied Mr. Perker’s clerk; and then seeing Mr.

  Pickwick’s eye wandering curiously towards the table, he added,‘will you join us, for half an hour or so? We are capital companyhere to-night. There’s Samkin and Green’s managing-clerk, andSmithers and Price’s chancery, and Pimkin and Thomas’s out o’

  doors―sings a capital song, he does―and Jack Bamber, and everso many more. You’re come out of the country, I suppose. Wouldyou like to join us?’

  Mr. Pickwick could not resist so tempting an opportunity ofstudying human nature. He suffered himself to be led to the table,where, after having been introduced to the company in due form,he was accommodated with a seat near the chairman and calledfor a glass of his favourite beverage.

  A profound silence, quite contrary to Mr. Pickwick’sexpectation, succeeded. ‘You don’t find this sort of thingdisagreeable, I hope, sir?’ said his right hand neighbour, agentleman in a checked shirt and Mosaic studs, with a cigar in hismouth.

  ‘Not in the least,’ replied Mr. Pickwick; ‘I like it very much,although I am no smoker myself.’

  ‘I should be very sorry to say I wasn’t,’ interposed anothergentleman on the opposite side of the table. ‘It’s board andlodgings to me, is smoke.’

  Mr. Pickwick glanced at the speaker, and thought that if it werewashing too, it would be all the better.

  Here there was another pause. Mr. Pickwick was a stranger,and his coming had evidently cast a damp upon the party.

  ‘Mr. Grundy’s going to oblige the company with a song,’ saidthe chairman.

  ‘No, he ain’t,’ said Mr. Grundy.

  ‘Why not?’ said the chairman.

  ‘Because he can’t,’ said Mr. Grundy. ‘You had better say hewon’t,’ replied the chairman.

  ‘Well, then, he won’t,’ retorted Mr. Grundy. Mr. Grundy’spositive refusal to gratify the company occasioned another silence.

  ‘Won’t anybody enliven us?’ said the chairman, despondingly.

  ‘Why don’t you enliven us yourself, Mr. Chairman?’ said ayoung man with a whisker, a squint, and an open shirt collar(dirty), from the bottom of the table.

  ‘Hear! hear!’ said the smoking gentleman, in the Mosaicjewellery.

  ‘Because I only know one song, and I have sung it already, andit’s a fine of “glasses round” to sing the same song twice in anight,’ replied the chairman.

  This was an unanswerable reply, and silence prevailed again.

  ‘I have been to-night, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick, hoping tostart a subject which all the company could take a part indiscussing, ‘I have been to-night, in a place which you all knowvery well, doubtless, but which I have not been in for some years,and know very little of; I mean Gray’s Inn, gentlemen. Curiouslittle nooks in a great place, like London, these old inns are.’

  ‘By Jove!’ said the chairman, whispering across the table to Mr.

  Pickwick, ‘you have hit upon something that one of us, at least,would talk upon for ever. You’ll draw old Jack Bamber out; he wasnever heard to talk about anything else but the inns, and he haslived alone in them till he’s half crazy.’

  The individual to whom Lowten alluded, was a little, yellow,high-shouldered man, whose countenance, from his habit ofstooping forward when silent, Mr. Pickwick had not observedbefore. He wondered, though, when the old man raised hisshrivelled face, and bent his gray eye upon him, with a keeninquiring look, that such remarkable features could have escapedhis attention for a moment. There was a fixed grim smileperpetually on his countenance; he leaned his chin on a long,skinny hand, with nails of extraordinary length; and as he inclinedhis head to one side, and looked keenly out from beneath hisragged gray eyebrows, there was a strange, wild slyness in his leer,quite repulsive to behold.

  This was the figure that now started forward, and burst into ananimated torrent of words. As this chapter has been a long one,however, and as the old man was a remarkable personage, it willbe more respectful to him, and more convenient to us, to let himspeak for himself in a fresh one.


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