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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 20

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 20


In the ground-floor front of a dingy house, at the very farthest end
of Freeman's Court, Cornhill, sat the four clerks of Messrs. Dodson
& Fogg, two of his Majesty's attorneys of the courts of King's Bench
and Common Pleas at Westminster, and solicitors of the High Court of
Chancery--the aforesaid clerks catching as favourable glimpses of
heaven's light and heaven's sun, in the course of their daily
labours, as a man might hope to do, were he placed at the bottom
of a reasonably deep well; and without 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 partition
to screen the clerks from the vulgar gaze, a couple of old wooden
chairs, a very loud-ticking clock, an almanac, an umbrella-stand,
a row of hat-pegs, and a few shelves, on which were deposited
several ticketed bundles of dirty papers, some old deal boxes with
paper labels, and sundry decayed stone ink bottles of various
shapes and sizes. There was a glass door leading into the passage
which formed the entrance to the court, and on the outer side of
this glass door, Mr. Pickwick, closely followed by Sam Weller,
presented himself on the Friday morning succeeding the occurrence
of which a faithful narration is given in the last chapter.

'Come in, can't you!' cried a voice from behind the partition,
in reply to Mr. Pickwick's gentle tap at the door. And Mr.
Pickwick and 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 particularly
engaged,' replied the voice; and at the same time the head to
which the voice belonged, with a pen behind its ear, looked over
the partition, and at Mr. Pickwick.

it was a ragged head, the sandy hair of which, scrupulously
parted on one side, and flattened down with pomatum, was
twisted into little semi-circular tails round a flat face ornamented
with a pair of small eyes, and garnished with a very dirty shirt
collar, and a rusty black stock.

'Mr. Dodson ain't at home, and Mr. Fogg's particularly
engaged,' 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 great deliberation,
while another clerk, who was mixing a Seidlitz powder,
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
of the clock and the murmured conversation of the clerks.

'That was a game, wasn't it?' said one of the gentlemen, in a
brown coat and brass buttons, inky drabs, and bluchers, at the
conclusion of some inaudible relation of his previous evening's

'Devilish good--devilish good,' said the Seidlitz-powder man.
'Tom Cummins was in the chair,' said the man with the brown
coat. 'It was half-past four when I got to Somers Town, and then
I was so uncommon lushy, that I couldn't find the place where the
latch-key went in, and was obliged to knock up the old 'ooman.
I say, I wonder what old Fogg 'ud say, if he knew it. I should get
the sack, 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 the
man in the brown coat, 'while Jack was upstairs sorting the
papers, and you two were gone to the stamp-office. Fogg was
down here, opening the letters when that chap as we issued the
writ against at Camberwell, you know, came in--what's his
name again?'

'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," said
Ramsey, putting his hand in his pocket, and bringing out the
money, "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
the money, done up in a bit of blotting-paper. Old Fogg looked
first at the 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 a declaration 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," said Fogg, "my clerk's just gone to
file it. Hasn't Mr. Jackson gone to file that declaration in
Bullman and Ramsey, Mr. Wicks?" Of course I said yes, and
then Fogg coughed again, and looked at Ramsey. "My God!"
said Ramsey; "and here have I nearly driven myself mad, scraping
this money together, and all to no purpose." "None at all," said
Fogg coolly; "so you had better go back and scrape some more
together, and bring it here in time." "I can't get it, by God!" said
Ramsey, striking the desk with his fist. "Don't bully me, sir,"
said Fogg, getting into a passion on purpose. "I am not bullying
you, sir," said Ramsey. "You are," said Fogg; "get out, sir; get
out of this office, Sir, and come back, Sir, when you know how to
behave yourself." Well, Ramsey tried to speak, but Fogg wouldn't
let him, so he put the money in his pocket, and sneaked out. The
door was scarcely shut, when old Fogg turned round to me, with
a sweet smile on his face, and drew the declaration out of his coat
pocket. "Here, Wicks," says Fogg, "take a cab, and go down to
the Temple as quick as you can, and file that. The costs are quite
safe, for he's a steady man with a large family, at a salary of
five-and-twenty shillings a week, and if he gives us a warrant of
attorney, as he must in the end, I know his employers will see it
paid; 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
and small income, he'll be all the better for a good lesson against
getting into debt--won't he, Mr. Wicks, won't he?"--and he
smiled so good-naturedly as he went away, that it was delightful
to see him. He is a capital man of business,' said Wicks, in a tone
of the deepest admiration, 'capital, isn't he?'

The other three cordially subscribed to this opinion, and the
anecdote 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 the
attention of the young gentlemen behind the partition, who,
having now relaxed their minds by a little conversation among
themselves, 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.
'What name shall I tell Mr. Fogg?'

'Pickwick,' replied the illustrious subject of these memoirs.

Mr. Jackson departed upstairs on his errand, and immediately
returned with a message that Mr. Fogg would see Mr. Pickwick
in five 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
and Pickwick.'

A sudden scraping of feet, mingled with the sound of suppressed
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 you
mean by twigging me?'

Mr. Weller replied by pointing with his thumb over his
shoulder, and Mr. Pickwick, on looking up, became sensible of
the pleasing fact, that all the four clerks, with countenances
expressive of the utmost amusement, and with their heads thrust
over the wooden screen, were minutely inspecting the figure and
general appearance of the supposed trifler with female hearts, and
disturber of female happiness. On his looking up, the row of heads
suddenly disappeared, and the sound of pens travelling at a
furious rate over paper, immediately succeeded.

A sudden ring at the bell which hung in the office, summoned
Mr. Jackson to the apartment of Fogg, from whence he came
back to say that he (Fogg) was ready to see Mr. Pickwick if he
would step upstairs.
Upstairs Mr. Pickwick did step accordingly, leaving Sam
Weller below. The room door of the one-pair back, bore
inscribed in legible characters the imposing words, 'Mr. Fogg'; and,
having tapped thereat, and been desired to come in, Jackson
ushered 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 partner
will be here directly, and we can converse about this matter, sir.'

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

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

'This is Mr. Pickwick,' said Fogg.

'Ah! You are the defendant, Sir, in Bardell and Pickwick?'
said Dodson.

'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,
Mr Pickwick?'

'Hush, Fogg,' said Dodson, 'let me hear what Mr. Pickwick has
to say.'

'I came, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick, gazing placidly on the
two partners, 'I came here, gentlemen, to express the surprise with
which I received your letter of the other day, and to inquire what
grounds of action you can have against me.'

'Grounds of--' Fogg had ejaculated this much, when he was
stopped 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 moral
elevation in his air, 'you will consult your own conscience and
your own feelings. We, Sir, we, are guided entirely by the statement
of our client. That statement, Sir, may be true, or it may be
false; it may be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true,
and if it be 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
unfortunate man, 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 your conduct, Sir, I do not hesitate to assert that I
should have but one opinion about it.' Here Dodson drew himself
up, with an air of offended virtue, and looked at Fogg,
who thrust his hands farther in his pockets, and nodding
his head sagely, said, in a tone of the fullest concurrence,
'Most certainly.'

'Well, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, with considerable pain depicted
in his countenance, 'you will permit me to assure you that I am a
most unfortunate man, so far as this case is concerned.'

'I hope you are, Sir,' replied Dodson; 'I trust you may be, Sir.
If you are really innocent of what is laid to your charge, you are
more 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
of incredulity.

'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 a
parchment cover.

'Here is the entry,' resumed Dodson. '"Middlesex, Capias
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 is
your 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 hundred pounds?'
said Mr. Pickwick.

'To which understanding you may add my assurance, that if
we could have prevailed upon our client, they would have been
laid at treble the amount, sir,' replied Dodson.
'I believe Mrs. Bardell specially said, however,' observed Fogg,
glancing at Dodson, 'that she would not compromise for a
farthing less.'

'Unquestionably,' replied Dodson sternly. For the action was
only just begun; and it wouldn't have done to let Mr. Pickwick
compromise it then, even if he had been so disposed.

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

'Very well, gentlemen, very well,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising in
person and wrath at the same time; 'you shall hear from my
solicitor, 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 the
disgraceful 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,' replied
Dodson. 'Pray, go on, sir--disgraceful and rascally proceedings,
I think you said?'

'I did,' said Mr. Pickwick, thoroughly roused. 'I said, Sir, that
of all the disgraceful and rascally proceedings that ever were
attempted, 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. Wicks?'

'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 us
thieves, Sir; or perhaps You would like to assault one Of US. Pray
do 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 gentleman
would have complied with his earnest entreaty, but for the
interposition of Sam, who, hearing the dispute, emerged from the
office, mounted the stairs, and seized his master by the arm.

'You just come away,' said Mr. Weller. 'Battledore and
shuttlecock's a wery good game, vhen you ain't the shuttlecock
and two lawyers the battledores, in which case it gets too excitin'
to be pleasant. Come avay, Sir. If you want to ease your mind by
blowing 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 his
master down the stairs, and down the court, and having safely
deposited him in Cornhill, fell behind, prepared to follow
whithersoever he should lead.

Mr. Pickwick walked on abstractedly, crossed opposite the
Mansion House, and bent his steps up Cheapside. Sam began to
wonder 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 gone
last 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 at
once; but first, as I have been rather ruffled, I should like a glass
of brandy-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
the same 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 the
others has, and it's wery inconvenient.'

Mr. Pickwick observed his valet's directions implicitly, and
bidding 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 the
same table with his master, was accommodated with a pint of porter.

The room was one of a very homely description, and was
apparently under the especial patronage of stage-coachmen; for
several gentleman, who had all the appearance of belonging to
that learned profession, were drinking and smoking in the
different boxes. Among the number was one stout, red-faced,
elderly man, in particular, seated in an opposite box, who
attracted Mr. Pickwick's attention. The stout man was smoking
with great vehemence, but between every half-dozen puffs, he
took his pipe from his mouth, and looked first at Mr. Weller and
then at Mr. Pickwick. Then, he would bury in a quart pot, as
much of his countenance as the dimensions of the quart pot
admitted of its receiving, and take another look at Sam and
Mr. Pickwick. Then he would take another half-dozen puffs with
an air of profound meditation and look at them again. At last the
stout man, putting up his legs on the seat, and leaning his back
against the wall, began to puff at his pipe without leaving off at
all, and to stare through the smoke at the new-comers, as if he
had made up his 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's
eyes every now and then turning towards him, he began to gaze
in the same direction, at the same time shading his eyes with his
hand, as if he partially recognised the object before him, and
wished to make quite sure of its identity. His doubts were
speedily dispelled, however; for the stout man having blown a
thick cloud from his pipe, a hoarse voice, like some strange effort
of ventriloquism, emerged from beneath the capacious shawls
which muffled 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, with
astonished 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. Weller
made room on the seat beside him, for the stout man, who
advanced pipe in mouth and pot in hand, to greet him.

'Wy, Sammy,' said the father, 'I ha'n't seen you, for two year
and better.'

'Nor more you have, old codger,' replied the son. 'How's

'Wy, I'll tell you what, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, senior, with
much solemnity in his manner; 'there never was a nicer woman
as a widder, than that 'ere second wentur o' mine--a sweet
creetur she was, Sammy; all I can say on her now, is, that as she
was such an uncommon pleasant widder, it's a great pity she ever
changed her 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
his pocket; 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, and
addressing 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. Pickwick
laughed, Sam Weller informed his parent in a whisper, of
the relation 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 good
deal o' pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streets
when he was wery young, and shift for hisself. It's the only way
to make 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 got
reg'larly done the other day.'

'No!' said his father.

'I did,' said the son; and he proceeded to relate, in as few
words as possible, how he had fallen a ready dupe to the stratagems
of Job Trotter.

Mr. Weller, senior, listened to the tale with the most profound
attention, and, at its termination, said--

'Worn't one o' these chaps slim and tall, with long hair, and
the gift o' the gab wery gallopin'?'

Mr. Pickwick did not quite understand the last item of description,
but, comprehending the first, said 'Yes,' at a venture.

'T' other's a black-haired chap in mulberry livery, with a wery
large head?'

'Yes, yes, he is,' said Mr. Pickwick and Sam, with great earnestness.
'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
an Ipswich coach now and then for a friend o' mine. I worked
down the wery day arter the night as you caught the rheumatic,
and at the Black Boy at Chelmsford--the wery place they'd
come to--I took 'em up, right through to Ipswich, where the
man-servant--him in the mulberries--told me they was a-goin'
to put up for a long time.'

'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'we may as well see
Ipswich as 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 appearance
is wery sing'ler; besides that 'ere, I wondered to see the gen'l'm'n
so formiliar with his servant; and, more than that, as they sat in
the front, right behind the box, I heerd 'em laughing and saying
how 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 appellation
of 'old Fireworks,' but still it is by no means a respectful or
flattering designation. The recollection of all the wrongs he had
sustained at Jingle's hands, had crowded on Mr. Pickwick's
mind, the moment Mr. Weller began to speak; it wanted but a
feather to turn the scale, and 'old Fireworks' did it.

'I'll follow him,' said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on
the table.

'I shall work down to Ipswich the day arter to-morrow, Sir,'
said Mr. Weller the elder, 'from the Bull in Whitechapel; and if
you really 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. But
don'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 success
to 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 to Mr. Pickwick, and nodding to Sam, jerked it down his
capacious throat as if it had been a small thimbleful.
'Well done, father,' said Sam, 'take care, old fellow, or you'll
have a touch of your old complaint, 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, hastily
producing his note-book--'what is it?'

'The gout, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'the gout is a complaint as
arises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you're attacked
with the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loud
woice, with a decent notion of usin' it, and you'll never have the
gout agin. It's a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg'lar, and I
can warrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too much
jollity.' Having imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drained
his glass once more, produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply,
and slowly 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 of pity, ven he buried him.'

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

After climbing two pairs of steep and dirty stairs, he found his
anticipations were realised. Mr. Perker's 'outer door' was closed;
and the dead silence which followed Mr. Weller's repeated kicks
thereat, announced that the officials had retired from business for
the night.

'This is pleasant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I shouldn't lose
an hour 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 I have 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 curious
circumstance, 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 old
woman, whose appearance, as well as the condition of the office,
which she had by this time opened, indicated a rooted antipathy
to the application of soap and water; 'do you know where I can
find Mr. Perker, my good woman?'

'No, I don't,' replied the old woman gruffly; 'he's out o' town now.'

'That's unfortunate,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'where's his clerk?
Do you 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,
I was to say where he was, so I suppose there's no harm in
telling. If you 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
that the hostelry in question was situated in a court, happy in the
double advantage of being in the vicinity of Clare Market, and
closely approximating to the back of New Inn, Mr. Pickwick and
Sam descended the rickety staircase in safety, and issued forth in
quest of the Magpie and Stump.

This favoured tavern, sacred to the evening orgies of Mr.
Lowten and his companions, was what ordinary people would
designate a public-house. That the landlord was a man of money-
making turn was sufficiently testified by the fact of a small bulkhead
beneath the tap-room window, in size and shape not unlike
a sedan-chair, being underlet to a mender of shoes: and that he
was a being of a philanthropic mind was evident from the
protection he afforded to a pieman, who vended his delicacies
without fear of interruption, on the very door-step. In the lower
windows, which were decorated with curtains of a saffron hue,
dangled two or three printed cards, bearing reference to Devonshire
cider and Dantzic spruce, while a large blackboard,
announcing in white letters to an enlightened public, that there
were 500,000 barrels of double stout in the cellars of the establishment,
left the mind in a state of not unpleasing doubt and
uncertainty as to the precise direction in the bowels of the earth, in
which this mighty cavern might be supposed to extend. When we
add that the weather-beaten signboard bore the half-obliterated
semblance of a magpie intently eyeing a crooked streak of brown
paint, which the neighbours had been taught from infancy to
consider as the 'stump,' we have said all that need be said of the
exterior of the edifice.

On Mr. Pickwick's presenting himself at the bar, an elderly
female emerged from behind the screen therein, and presented
herself before him.

'Is Mr. Lowten here, ma'am?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Yes, he is, Sir,' replied the landlady. 'Here, Charley, show the
gentleman 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, and
he'll put him out. He'll be done directly, Sir.'

The red-headed pot-boy had scarcely finished speaking,
when a most 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, suffered himself to be conducted into the presence of Mr.

At the announcement of 'A gentleman to speak to you, Sir,' a
puffy-faced young man, who filled the chair at the head of the
table, looked with some surprise in the direction from whence
the voice proceeded; and the surprise seemed to be by no means
diminished, when his eyes rested on an individual whom he had
never seen before.

'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and I am very
sorry to disturb the other gentlemen, too, but I come on very
particular business; and if you will suffer me to detain you at this
end of the room for five minutes, I shall be very much obliged to you.'

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

'Ah,'he said, when Mr. Pickwick had concluded, 'Dodson and
Fogg--sharp practice theirs--capital men of business, Dodson
and Fogg, 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 action defended, and will leave
the copy with me, I can do all that's needful till he comes back.'

'That's exactly what I came here for,' said Mr. Pickwick,
handing over the document. 'If anything particular occurs, you
can 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
company here to-night. There's Samkin and Green's managing-
clerk, and Smithers and Price's chancery, and Pimkin and
Thomas's out o' doors--sings a capital song, he does--and Jack
Bamber, and ever so many more. You're come out of the country,
I suppose. Would you like to join us?'

Mr. Pickwick could not resist so tempting an opportunity of
studying 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 called
for a glass of his favourite beverage.

A profound silence, quite contrary to Mr. Pickwick's expectation,
'You don't find this sort of thing disagreeable, I hope, sir?'
said his right hand neighbour, a gentleman in a checked shirt and
Mosaic studs, with a cigar in his mouth.

'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 another
gentleman on the opposite side of the table. 'It's board and
lodgings to me, is smoke.'

Mr. Pickwick glanced at the speaker, and thought that if it
were washing 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,' said
the chairman.

'No, he ain't,' said Mr. Grundy.

'Why not?' said the chairman.

'Because he can't,' said Mr. Grundy.
'You had better say he won't,' replied the chairman.

'Well, then, he won't,' retorted Mr. Grundy. Mr. Grundy's
positive 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 a
young 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 Mosaic jewellery.

'Because I only know one song, and I have sung it already, and
it's a fine of "glasses round" to sing the same song twice in a
night,' replied the chairman.

This was an unanswerable reply, and silence prevailed again.

'I have been to-night, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick, hoping
to start a subject which all the company could take a part in
discussing, 'I have been to-night, in a place which you all know
very well, doubtless, but which I have not been in for some years,
and know very little of; I mean Gray's Inn, gentlemen. Curious
little 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 was never heard to talk about anything else but the inns, and
he has lived 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 of
stooping forward when silent, Mr. Pickwick had not observed
before. He wondered, though, when the old man raised his
shrivelled face, and bent his gray eye upon him, with a keen
inquiring look, that such remarkable features could have escaped
his attention for a moment. There was a fixed grim smile
perpetually on his countenance; he leaned his chin on a long, skinny
hand, with nails of extraordinary length; and as he inclined his
head to one side, and looked keenly out from beneath his ragged
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 an
animated torrent of words. As this chapter has been a long one,
however, and as the old man was a remarkable personage, it will
be more respectful to him, and more convenient to us, to let him
speak for himself in a fresh one.

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