The Pickwick Papers
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 Next page
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,