'I wish you'd come and see me,' said Bob Sawyer.
'Nothing would give me greater pleasure,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'There's my lodgings,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer, producing a card. 'Lant Street, Borough; it's near Guy's, and handy for me, you know. Little distance after you've passed St. George's Church—turns out of the High Street on the right hand side the way.'
'I shall find it,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Come on Thursday fortnight, and bring the other chaps with you,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer; 'I'm going to have a few medical fellows that night.'
Mr. Pickwick expressed the pleasure it would afford him to meet the medical fellows; and after Mr. Bob Sawyer had informed him that he meant to be very cosy, and that his friend Ben was to be one of the party, they shook hands and separated.
We feel that in this place we lay ourself open to the inquiry whether Mr. Winkle was whispering, during this brief conversation, to Arabella Allen; and if so, what he said; and furthermore, whether Mr. Snodgrass was conversing apart with Emily Wardle; and if so, what HE said. To this, we reply, that whatever they might have said to the ladies, they said nothing at all to Mr. Pickwick or Mr. Tupman for eight-and-twenty miles, and that they sighed very often, refused ale and brandy, and looked gloomy. If our observant lady readers can deduce any satisfactory inferences from these facts, we beg them by all means to do so.
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?'
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.
'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—
'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.'