INTRODUCES Mr. PICKWICK TO A NEW AND NOT UNINTERESTING
< BackForward >
SCENE IN THE GREAT DRAMA OF LIFE
The remainder of the period which Mr. Pickwick had assigned
as the duration of the stay at Bath passed over without the
occurrence of anything material. Trinity term commenced. On the
expiration of its first week, Mr. Pickwick and his friends returned
to London; and the former gentleman, attended of course by Sam,
straightway repaired to his old quarters at the George and Vulture.
On the third morning after their arrival, just as all the clocks in
the city were striking nine individually, and somewhere about
nine hundred and ninety-nine collectively, Sam was taking the air
in George Yard, when a queer sort of fresh-painted vehicle drove
up, out of which there jumped with great agility, throwing the
reins to a stout man who sat beside him, a queer sort of gentleman,
who seemed made for the vehicle, and the vehicle for him.
The vehicle was not exactly a gig, neither was it a stanhope. It
was not what is currently denominated a dog-cart, neither was it
a taxed cart, nor a chaise-cart, nor a guillotined cabriolet; and
yet it had something of the character of each and every of these
machines. It was painted a bright yellow, with the shafts and
wheels picked out in black; and the driver sat in the orthodox
sporting style, on cushions piled about two feet above the rail.
The horse was a bay, a well-looking animal enough; but with
something of a flash and dog-fighting air about him, nevertheless,
which accorded both with the vehicle and his master.
The master himself was a man of about forty, with black hair,
and carefully combed whiskers. He was dressed in a particularly
gorgeous manner, with plenty of articles of jewellery about him--
all about three sizes larger than those which are usually worn by
gentlemen--and a rough greatcoat to crown the whole. Into one
pocket of this greatcoat, he thrust his left hand the moment he
dismounted, while from the other he drew forth, with his right, a
very bright and glaring silk handkerchief, with which he whisked
a speck or two of dust from his boots, and then, crumpling it in
his hand, swaggered up the court.
It had not escaped Sam's attention that, when this person
dismounted, a shabby-looking man in a brown greatcoat shorn
of divers buttons, who had been previously slinking about, on the
opposite side of the way, crossed over, and remained stationary
close by. Having something more than a suspicion of the object
of the gentleman's visit, Sam preceded him to the George and
Vulture, and, turning sharp round, planted himself in the Centre
of the doorway.
'Now, my fine fellow!' said the man in the rough coat, in an
imperious tone, attempting at the same time to push his way past.
'Now, Sir, wot's the matter?' replied Sam, returning the push
with compound interest.
'Come, none of this, my man; this won't do with me,' said the
owner of the rough coat, raising his voice, and turning white.
'Well, wot's amiss here?' growled the man in the brown coat, who
had been gradually sneaking up the court during this short dialogue.
'Only some insolence of this young man's,' said the principal,
giving Sam another push.
'Come, none o' this gammon,' growled Smouch, giving him
another, and a harder one.
This last push had the effect which it was intended by the
experienced Mr. Smouch to produce; for while Sam, anxious to
return the compliment, was grinding that gentleman's body
against the door-post, the principal crept past, and made his way
to the bar, whither Sam, after bandying a few epithetical remarks
with Mr. Smouch, followed at once.
'Good-morning, my dear,' said the principal, addressing the
young lady at the bar, with Botany Bay ease, and New South
Wales gentility; 'which is Mr. Pickwick's room, my dear?'
'Show him up,' said the barmaid to a waiter, without deigning
another look at the exquisite, in reply to his inquiry.
The waiter led the way upstairs as he was desired, and the man
in the rough coat followed, with Sam behind him, who, in his
progress up the staircase, indulged in sundry gestures indicative
of supreme contempt and defiance, to the unspeakable gratification
of the servants and other lookers-on. Mr. Smouch, who was
troubled with a hoarse cough, remained below, and expectorated
in the passage.
Mr. Pickwick was fast asleep in bed, when his early visitor,
followed by Sam, entered the room. The noise they made, in so
doing, awoke him.
'Shaving-water, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, from within the curtains.
'Shave you directly, Mr. Pickwick,' said the visitor, drawing
one of them back from the bed's head. 'I've got an execution
against you, at the suit of Bardell.--Here's the warrant.--
Common Pleas.--Here's my card. I suppose you'll come over to
my house.' Giving Mr. Pickwick a friendly tap on the shoulder,
the sheriff's officer (for such he was) threw his card on the
counterpane, and pulled a gold toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.
'Namby's the name,' said the sheriff's deputy, as Mr. Pickwick
took his spectacles from under the pillow, and put them on, to
read the card. 'Namby, Bell Alley, Coleman Street.'
At this point, Sam Weller, who had had his eyes fixed hitherto
on Mr. Namby's shining beaver, interfered.
'Are you a Quaker?' said Sam.
'I'll let you know I am, before I've done with you,' replied the
indignant officer. 'I'll teach you manners, my fine fellow, one of
these fine mornings.'
'Thank'ee,' said Sam. 'I'll do the same to you. Take your hat
off.' With this, Mr. Weller, in the most dexterous manner,
knocked Mr. Namby's hat to the other side of the room, with
such violence, that he had very nearly caused him to swallow the
gold toothpick into the bargain.
'Observe this, Mr. Pickwick,' said the disconcerted officer,
gasping for breath. 'I've been assaulted in the execution of my
dooty by your servant in your chamber. I'm in bodily fear. I call
you to witness this.'
'Don't witness nothin', Sir,' interposed Sam. 'Shut your eyes
up tight, Sir. I'd pitch him out o' winder, only he couldn't fall far
enough, 'cause o' the leads outside.'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, in an angry voice, as his attendant
made various demonstrations of hostilities, 'if you say another
word, or offer the slightest interference with this person, I
discharge you that instant.'
'But, Sir!' said Sam.
'Hold your tongue,' interposed Mr. Pickwick. 'Take that hat
But this Sam flatly and positively refused to do; and, after he
had been severely reprimanded by his master, the officer, being
in a hurry, condescended to pick it up himself, venting a great
variety of threats against Sam meanwhile, which that gentleman
received with perfect composure, merely observing that if Mr.
Namby would have the goodness to put his hat on again, he
would knock it into the latter end of next week. Mr. Namby,
perhaps thinking that such a process might be productive of
inconvenience to himself, declined to offer the temptation, and,
soon after, called up Smouch. Having informed him that the
capture was made, and that he was to wait for the prisoner until
he should have finished dressing, Namby then swaggered out, and
drove away. Smouch, requesting Mr. Pickwick in a surly manner
'to be as alive as he could, for it was a busy time,' drew up a chair
by the door and sat there, until he had finished dressing. Sam was
then despatched for a hackney-coach, and in it the triumvirate
proceeded to Coleman Street. It was fortunate the distance was
short; for Mr. Smouch, besides possessing no very enchanting
conversational powers, was rendered a decidedly unpleasant
companion in a limited space, by the physical weakness to which
we have elsewhere adverted.
The coach having turned into a very narrow and dark street,
stopped before a house with iron bars to all the windows; the
door-posts of which were graced by the name and title of
'Namby, Officer to the Sheriffs of London'; the inner gate having
been opened by a gentleman who might have passed for a
neglected twin-brother of Mr. Smouch, and who was endowed
with a large key for the purpose, Mr. Pickwick was shown into
This coffee-room was a front parlour, the principal features of
which were fresh sand and stale tobacco smoke. Mr. Pickwick
bowed to the three persons who were seated in it when he
entered; and having despatched Sam for Perker, withdrew into
an obscure corner, and looked thence with some curiosity upon
his new companions.
One of these was a mere boy of nineteen or twenty, who,
though it was yet barely ten o'clock, was drinking gin-and-water,
and smoking a cigar--amusements to which, judging from his
inflamed countenance, he had devoted himself pretty constantly
for the last year or two of his life. Opposite him, engaged in
stirring the fire with the toe of his right boot, was a coarse,
vulgar young man of about thirty, with a sallow face and harsh
voice; evidently possessed of that knowledge of the world, and
captivating freedom of manner, which is to be acquired in
public-house parlours, and at low billiard tables. The third
tenant of the apartment was a middle-aged man in a very old suit
of black, who looked pale and haggard, and paced up and down
the room incessantly; stopping, now and then, to look with
great anxiety out of the window as if he expected somebody, and
then resuming his walk.
'You'd better have the loan of my razor this morning, Mr.
Ayresleigh,' said the man who was stirring the fire, tipping the
wink to his friend the boy.
'Thank you, no, I shan't want it; I expect I shall be out, in the
course of an hour or so,' replied the other in a hurried manner.
Then, walking again up to the window, and once more returning
disappointed, he sighed deeply, and left the room; upon which
the other two burst into a loud laugh.
'Well, I never saw such a game as that,' said the gentleman
who had offered the razor, whose name appeared to be Price.
'Never!' Mr. Price confirmed the assertion with an oath, and
then laughed again, when of course the boy (who thought his
companion one of the most dashing fellows alive) laughed also.
'You'd hardly think, would you now,' said Price, turning
towards Mr. Pickwick, 'that that chap's been here a week
yesterday, and never once shaved himself yet, because he feels so
certain he's going out in half an hour's time, thinks he may as
well put it off till he gets home?'
'Poor man!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Are his chances of getting out
of his difficulties really so great?'
'Chances be d--d,' replied Price; 'he hasn't half the ghost of
one. I wouldn't give THAT for his chance of walking about the
streets this time ten years.' With this, Mr. Price snapped his
fingers contemptuously, and rang the bell.
'Give me a sheet of paper, Crookey,' said Mr. Price to the
attendant, who in dress and general appearance looked something
between a bankrupt glazier, and a drover in a state of
insolvency; 'and a glass of brandy-and-water, Crookey, d'ye
hear? I'm going to write to my father, and I must have a
stimulant, or I shan't be able to pitch it strong enough into the
old boy.' At this facetious speech, the young boy, it is almost
needless to say, was fairly convulsed.
'That's right,' said Mr. Price. 'Never say die. All fun, ain't it?'
'Prime!' said the young gentleman.
'You've got some spirit about you, you have,' said Price.
'You've seen something of life.'
'I rather think I have!' replied the boy. He had looked at it
through the dirty panes of glass in a bar door.
Mr. Pickwick, feeling not a little disgusted with this dialogue,
as well as with the air and manner of the two beings by whom it
had been carried on, was about to inquire whether he could not
be accommodated with a private sitting-room, when two or three
strangers of genteel appearance entered, at sight of whom the
boy threw his cigar into the fire, and whispering to Mr. Price
that they had come to 'make it all right' for him, joined them at a
table in the farther end of the room.
It would appear, however, that matters were not going to be
made all right quite so speedily as the young gentleman anticipated;
for a very long conversation ensued, of which Mr.
Pickwick could not avoid hearing certain angry fragments
regarding dissolute conduct, and repeated forgiveness. At last,
there were very distinct allusions made by the oldest gentleman
of the party to one Whitecross Street, at which the young gentleman,
notwithstanding his primeness and his spirit, and his
knowledge of life into the bargain, reclined his head upon the
table, and howled dismally.
Very much satisfied with this sudden bringing down of the
youth's valour, and this effectual lowering of his tone, Mr. Pickwick
rang the bell, and was shown, at his own request, into a
private room furnished with a carpet, table, chairs, sideboard and
sofa, and ornamented with a looking-glass, and various old
prints. Here he had the advantage of hearing Mrs. Namby's
performance on a square piano overhead, while the breakfast was
getting ready; when it came, Mr. Perker came too.
'Aha, my dear sir,' said the little man, 'nailed at last, eh?
Come, come, I'm not sorry for it either, because now you'll see
the absurdity of this conduct. I've noted down the amount of the
taxed costs and damages for which the ca-sa was issued, and we
had better settle at once and lose no time. Namby is come home
by this time, I dare say. What say you, my dear sir? Shall I draw
a cheque, or will you?' The little man rubbed his hands with
affected cheerfulness as he said this, but glancing at Mr. Pickwick's
countenance, could not forbear at the same time casting a
desponding look towards Sam Weller.
'Perker,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'let me hear no more of this, I beg.
I see no advantage in staying here, so I Shall go to prison to-night.'
'You can't go to Whitecross Street, my dear Sir,' said Perker.
'Impossible! There are sixty beds in a ward; and the bolt's on,
sixteen hours out of the four-and-twenty.'
'I would rather go to some other place of confinement if I can,'
said Mr. Pickwick. 'If not, I must make the best I can of that.'
'You can go to the Fleet, my dear Sir, if you're determined to
go somewhere,' said Perker.
'That'll do,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I'll go there directly I have
finished my breakfast.'
'Stop, stop, my dear Sir; not the least occasion for being in such
a violent hurry to get into a place that most other men are as
eager to get out of,' said the good-natured little attorney. 'We
must have a habeas-corpus. There'll be no judge at chambers till
four o'clock this afternoon. You must wait till then.'
'Very good,' said Mr. Pickwick, with unmoved patience.
'Then we will have a chop here, at two. See about it, Sam, and
tell them to be punctual.'
Mr. Pickwick remaining firm, despite all the remonstrances and
arguments of Perker, the chops appeared and disappeared in due
course; he was then put into another hackney coach, and carried
off to Chancery Lane, after waiting half an hour or so for Mr.
Namby, who had a select dinner-party and could on no account
be disturbed before.
There were two judges in attendance at Serjeant's Inn--one
King's Bench, and one Common Pleas--and a great deal of
business appeared to be transacting before them, if the number
of lawyer's clerks who were hurrying in and out with bundles of
papers, afforded any test. When they reached the low archway
which forms the entrance to the inn, Perker was detained a few
moments parlaying with the coachman about the fare and the
change; and Mr. Pickwick, stepping to one side to be out of the
way of the stream of people that were pouring in and out, looked
about him with some curiosity.
The people that attracted his attention most, were three or four
men of shabby-genteel appearance, who touched their hats to
many of the attorneys who passed, and seemed to have some
business there, the nature of which Mr. Pickwick could not
divine. They were curious-looking fellows. One was a slim and
rather lame man in rusty black, and a white neckerchief; another
was a stout, burly person, dressed in the same apparel, with a
great reddish-black cloth round his neck; a third was a little
weazen, drunken-looking body, with a pimply face. They were
loitering about, with their hands behind them, and now and then
with an anxious countenance whispered something in the ear of
some of the gentlemen with papers, as they hurried by. Mr.
Pickwick remembered to have very often observed them lounging
under the archway when he had been walking past; and his
curiosity was quite excited to know to what branch of the profession
these dingy-looking loungers could possibly belong.
He was about to propound the question to Namby, who kept
close beside him, sucking a large gold ring on his little finger,
when Perker bustled up, and observing that there was no time to
lose, led the way into the inn. As Mr. Pickwick followed, the
lame man stepped up to him, and civilly touching his hat, held
out a written card, which Mr. Pickwick, not wishing to hurt the
man's feelings by refusing, courteously accepted and deposited in
his waistcoat pocket.
'Now,' said Perker, turning round before he entered one of the
offices, to see that his companions were close behind him. 'In
here, my dear sir. Hallo, what do you want?'
This last question was addressed to the lame man, who,
unobserved by Mr. Pickwick, made one of the party. In reply to it,
the lame man touched his hat again, with all imaginable politeness,
and motioned towards Mr. Pickwick.
'No, no,' said Perker, with a smile. 'We don't want you, my
dear friend, we don't want you.'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the lame man. 'The gentleman
took my card. I hope you will employ me, sir. The gentleman
nodded to me. I'll be judged by the gentleman himself. You
nodded to me, sir?'
'Pooh, pooh, nonsense. You didn't nod to anybody, Pickwick?
A mistake, a mistake,' said Perker.
'The gentleman handed me his card,' replied Mr. Pickwick,
producing it from his waistcoat pocket. 'I accepted it, as the
gentleman seemed to wish it--in fact I had some curiosity to look
at it when I should be at leisure. I--'
The little attorney burst into a loud laugh, and returning the
card to the lame man, informing him it was all a mistake,
whispered to Mr. Pickwick as the man turned away in dudgeon,
that he was only a bail.
'A what!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'A bail,' replied Perker.
'Yes, my dear sir--half a dozen of 'em here. Bail you to any
amount, and only charge half a crown. Curious trade, isn't it?'
said Perker, regaling himself with a pinch of snuff.
'What! Am I to understand that these men earn a livelihood
by waiting about here, to perjure themselves before the judges of
the land, at the rate of half a crown a crime?' exclaimed Mr.
Pickwick, quite aghast at the disclosure.
'Why, I don't exactly know about perjury, my dear sir,' replied
the little gentleman. 'Harsh word, my dear sir, very harsh word
indeed. It's a legal fiction, my dear sir, nothing more.' Saying
which, the attorney shrugged his shoulders, smiled, took a second
pinch of snuff, and led the way into the office of the judge's clerk.
This was a room of specially dirty appearance, with a very low
ceiling and old panelled walls; and so badly lighted, that although
it was broad day outside, great tallow candles were burning on
the desks. At one end, was a door leading to the judge's private
apartment, round which were congregated a crowd of attorneys
and managing clerks, who were called in, in the order in which
their respective appointments stood upon the file. Every time this
door was opened to let a party out, the next party made a violent
rush to get in; and, as in addition to the numerous dialogues
which passed between the gentlemen who were waiting to see the
judge, a variety of personal squabbles ensued between the greater
part of those who had seen him, there was as much noise as could
well be raised in an apartment of such confined dimensions.
Nor were the conversations of these gentlemen the only sounds
that broke upon the ear. Standing on a box behind a wooden bar
at another end of the room was a clerk in spectacles who was
'taking the affidavits'; large batches of which were, from time to
time, carried into the private room by another clerk for the
judge's signature. There were a large number of attorneys' clerks
to be sworn, and it being a moral impossibility to swear them all
at once, the struggles of these gentlemen to reach the clerk in
spectacles, were like those of a crowd to get in at the pit door of a
theatre when Gracious Majesty honours it with its presence.
Another functionary, from time to time, exercised his lungs in
calling over the names of those who had been sworn, for the
purpose of restoring to them their affidavits after they had been
signed by the judge, which gave rise to a few more scuffles; and
all these things going on at the same time, occasioned as much
bustle as the most active and excitable person could desire to
behold. There were yet another class of persons--those who were
waiting to attend summonses their employers had taken out,
which it was optional to the attorney on the opposite side to
attend or not--and whose business it was, from time to time, to
cry out the opposite attorney's name; to make certain that he
was not in attendance without their knowledge.
For example. Leaning against the wall, close beside the seat
Mr. Pickwick had taken, was an office-lad of fourteen, with a
tenor voice; near him a common-law clerk with a bass one.
A clerk hurried in with a bundle of papers, and stared about him.
'Sniggle and Blink,' cried the tenor.
'Porkin and Snob,' growled the bass.
'Stumpy and Deacon,' said the new-comer.
Nobody answered; the next man who came in, was bailed by
the whole three; and he in his turn shouted for another firm;
and then somebody else roared in a loud voice for another; and
All this time, the man in the spectacles was hard at work,
swearing the clerks; the oath being invariably administered,
without any effort at punctuation, and usually in the following
'Take the book in your right hand this is your name and hand-
writing you swear that the contents of this your affidavit are true
so help you God a shilling you must get change I haven't got it.'
'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I suppose they are getting the
'Yes,' said Sam, 'and I vish they'd bring out the have-his-
carcase. It's wery unpleasant keepin' us vaitin' here. I'd ha' got
half a dozen have-his-carcases ready, pack'd up and all, by this time.'
What sort of cumbrous and unmanageable machine, Sam
Weller imagined a habeas-corpus to be, does not appear;
for Perker, at that moment, walked up and took Mr. Pickwick away.
The usual forms having been gone through, the body of
Samuel Pickwick was soon afterwards confided to the custody of
the tipstaff, to be by him taken to the warden of the Fleet Prison,
and there detained until the amount of the damages and costs in
the action of Bardell against Pickwick was fully paid
'And that,' said Mr. Pickwick, laughing, 'will be a very long
time. Sam, call another hackney-coach. Perker, my dear friend,
'I shall go with you, and see you safe there,' said Perker.
'Indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'I would rather go without any
other attendant than Sam. As soon as I get settled, I will write
and let you know, and I shall expect you immediately. Until then,
As Mr. Pickwick said this, he got into the coach which had by
this time arrived, followed by the tipstaff. Sam having stationed
himself on the box, it rolled away.
'A most extraordinary man that!' said Perker, as he stopped to
pull on his gloves.
'What a bankrupt he'd make, Sir,' observed Mr. Lowten, who
was standing near. 'How he would bother the commissioners!
He'd set 'em at defiance if they talked of committing him, Sir.'
The attorney did not appear very much delighted with his
clerk's professional estimate of Mr. Pickwick's character, for he
walked away without deigning any reply.
The hackney-coach jolted along Fleet Street, as hackney-
coaches usually do. The horses 'went better', the driver said,
when they had anything before them (they must have gone at
a most extraordinary pace when there was nothing), and so
the vehicle kept behind a cart; when the cart stopped, it stopped;
and when the cart went on again, it did the same. Mr. Pickwick
sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between
his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window.
Time performs wonders. By the powerful old gentleman's aid,
even a hackney-coach gets over half a mile of ground. They
stopped at length, and Mr. Pickwick alighted at the gate of the Fleet.
The tipstaff, just looking over his shoulder to see that his
charge was following close at his heels, preceded Mr. Pickwick
into the prison; turning to the left, after they had entered, they
passed through an open door into a lobby, from which a heavy
gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and which was
guarded by a stout turnkey with the key in his hand, led at once
into the interior of the prison.
Here they stopped, while the tipstaff delivered his papers; and
here Mr. Pickwick was apprised that he would remain, until he
had undergone the ceremony, known to the initiated as 'sitting
for your portrait.'
'Sitting for my portrait?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Having your likeness taken, sir,' replied the stout turnkey.
'We're capital hands at likenesses here. Take 'em in no time, and
always exact. Walk in, sir, and make yourself at home.'
Mr. Pickwick complied with the invitation, and sat himself
down; when Mr. Weller, who stationed himself at the back of the
chair, whispered that the sitting was merely another term for
undergoing an inspection by the different turnkeys, in order that
they might know prisoners from visitors.
'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'then I wish the artists would
come. This is rather a public place.'
'They von't be long, Sir, I des-say,' replied Sam. 'There's a
Dutch clock, sir.'
'So I see,' observed Mr. Pickwick.
'And a bird-cage, sir,' says Sam. 'Veels vithin veels, a prison in
a prison. Ain't it, Sir?'
As Mr. Weller made this philosophical remark, Mr. Pickwick
was aware that his sitting had commenced. The stout turnkey
having been relieved from the lock, sat down, and looked at him
carelessly, from time to time, while a long thin man who had
relieved him, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and planting
himself opposite, took a good long view of him. A third rather
surly-looking gentleman, who had apparently been disturbed at
his tea, for he was disposing of the last remnant of a crust and
butter when he came in, stationed himself close to Mr. Pickwick;
and, resting his hands on his hips, inspected him narrowly; while
two others mixed with the group, and studied his features with
most intent and thoughtful faces. Mr. Pickwick winced a good
deal under the operation, and appeared to sit very uneasily in his
chair; but he made no remark to anybody while it was being
performed, not even to Sam, who reclined upon the back of the
chair, reflecting, partly on the situation of his master, and partly
on the great satisfaction it would have afforded him to make a
fierce assault upon all the turnkeys there assembled, one after the
other, if it were lawful and peaceable so to do.
At length the likeness was completed, and Mr. Pickwick was
informed that he might now proceed into the prison.
'Where am I to sleep to-night?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Why, I don't rightly know about to-night,' replied the stout
turnkey. 'You'll be chummed on somebody to-morrow, and then
you'll be all snug and comfortable. The first night's generally
rather unsettled, but you'll be set all squares to-morrow.'
After some discussion, it was discovered that one of the turnkeys
had a bed to let, which Mr. Pickwick could have for that night.
He gladly agreed to hire it.
'If you'll come with me, I'll show it you at once,' said the man.
'It ain't a large 'un; but it's an out-and-outer to sleep in. This
They passed through the inner gate, and descended a short flight
of steps. The key was turned after them; and Mr. Pickwick found
himself, for the first time in his life, within the walls of a debtors'