The Pickwick Papers
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'You're quite right, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but old men
may come here through their own heedlessness and unsuspicion,
and young men may be brought here by the selfishness of those
they serve. It is better for those young men, in every point of
view, that they should not remain here. Do you understand me, Sam?'
'Vy no, Sir, I do NOT,' replied Mr. Weller doggedly.
'Try, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Vell, sir,' rejoined Sam, after a short pause, 'I think I see your
drift; and if I do see your drift, it's my 'pinion that you're a-
comin' it a great deal too strong, as the mail-coachman said to
the snowstorm, ven it overtook him.'
'I see you comprehend me, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Independently
of my wish that you should not be idling about a place
like this, for years to come, I feel that for a debtor in the Fleet to
be attended by his manservant is a monstrous absurdity. Sam,'
said Mr. Pickwick, 'for a time you must leave me.'
'Oh, for a time, eh, sir?'rejoined Mr. Weller. rather sarcastically.
'Yes, for the time that I remain here,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Your wages I shall continue to pay. Any one of my three friends
will be happy to take you, were it only out of respect to me. And
if I ever do leave this place, Sam,' added Mr. Pickwick, with
assumed cheerfulness--'if I do, I pledge you my word that you
shall return to me instantly.'
'Now I'll tell you wot it is, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, in a grave and
solemn voice. 'This here sort o' thing won't do at all, so don't
let's hear no more about it.'
'I am serious, and resolved, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'You air, air you, sir?' inquired Mr. Weller firmly. 'Wery good,
Sir; then so am I.'
Thus speaking, Mr. Weller fixed his hat on his head with great
precision, and abruptly left the room.
'Sam!' cried Mr. Pickwick, calling after him, 'Sam! Here!'
But the long gallery ceased to re-echo the sound of footsteps.
Sam Weller was gone.
SHOWING HOW Mr. SAMUEL WELLER GOT INTO DIFFICULTIES
In a lofty room, ill-lighted and worse ventilated, situated in
Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, there sit nearly the
whole year round, one, two, three, or four gentlemen in wigs,
as the case may be, with little writing-desks before them,
constructed after the fashion of those used by the judges of the land,
barring the French polish. There is a box of barristers on their
right hand; there is an enclosure of insolvent debtors on their left;
and there is an inclined plane of most especially dirty faces in
their front. These gentlemen are the Commissioners of the
Insolvent Court, and the place in which they sit, is the Insolvent
It is, and has been, time out of mind, the remarkable fate of
this court to be, somehow or other, held and understood, by the
general consent of all the destitute shabby-genteel people in
London, as their common resort, and place of daily refuge. It is
always full. The steams of beer and spirits perpetually ascend to
the ceiling, and, being condensed by the heat, roll down the walls
like rain; there are more old suits of clothes in it at one time,
than will be offered for sale in all Houndsditch in a twelvemonth;
more unwashed skins and grizzly beards than all the pumps and
shaving-shops between Tyburn and Whitechapel could render
decent, between sunrise and sunset.
It must not be supposed that any of these people have the least
shadow of business in, or the remotest connection with, the place
they so indefatigably attend. If they had, it would be no matter of
surprise, and the singularity of the thing would cease. Some of
them sleep during the greater part of the sitting; others carry
small portable dinners wrapped in pocket-handkerchiefs or
sticking out of their worn-out pockets, and munch and listen
with equal relish; but no one among them was ever known to have
the slightest personal interest in any case that was ever brought
forward. Whatever they do, there they sit from the first moment
to the last. When it is heavy, rainy weather, they all come in, wet
through; and at such times the vapours of the court are like those
of a fungus-pit.
A casual visitor might suppose this place to be a temple
dedicated to the Genius of Seediness. There is not a messenger or
process-server attached to it, who wears a coat that was made for
him; not a tolerably fresh, or wholesome-looking man in the
whole establishment, except a little white-headed apple-faced
tipstaff, and even he, like an ill-conditioned cherry preserved in
brandy, seems to have artificially dried and withered up into a
state of preservation to which he can lay no natural claim. The
very barristers' wigs are ill-powdered, and their curls lack crispness.
But the attorneys, who sit at a large bare table below the
commissioners, are, after all, the greatest curiosities. The professional
establishment of the more opulent of these gentlemen, consists of
a blue bag and a boy; generally a youth of the Jewish persuasion.
They have no fixed offices, their legal business being transacted
in the parlours of public-houses, or the yards of prisons, whither
they repair in crowds, and canvass for customers after the manner
of omnibus cads. They are of a greasy and mildewed appearance;
and if they can be said to have any vices at all, perhaps drinking
and cheating are the most conspicuous among them. Their
residences are usually on the outskirts of 'the Rules,' chiefly
lying within a circle of one mile from the obelisk in St. George's
Fields. Their looks are not prepossessing, and their manners
Mr. Solomon Pell, one of this learned body, was a fat, flabby,
pale man, in a surtout which looked green one minute, and
brown the next, with a velvet collar of the same chameleon tints.
His forehead was narrow, his face wide, his head large, and his
nose all on one side, as if Nature, indignant with the propensities
she observed in him in his birth, had given it an angry tweak
which it had never recovered. Being short-necked and asthmatic,
however, he respired principally through this feature; so, perhaps,
what it wanted in ornament, it made up in usefulness.
'I'm sure to bring him through it,' said Mr. Pell.
'Are you, though?' replied the person to whom the assurance
'Certain sure,' replied Pell; 'but if he'd gone to any irregular
practitioner, mind you, I wouldn't have answered for the consequences.'
'Ah!' said the other, with open mouth.
'No, that I wouldn't,' said Mr. Pell; and he pursed up his lips,
frowned, and shook his head mysteriously.
Now, the place where this discourse occurred was the public-
house just opposite to the Insolvent Court; and the person with
whom it was held was no other than the elder Mr. Weller, who
had come there, to comfort and console a friend, whose petition
to be discharged under the act, was to be that day heard, and whose
attorney he was at that moment consulting.
'And vere is George?' inquired the old gentleman.
Mr. Pell jerked his head in the direction of a back parlour,
whither Mr. Weller at once repairing, was immediately greeted
in the warmest and most flattering manner by some half-dozen
of his professional brethren, in token of their gratification at his
arrival. The insolvent gentleman, who had contracted a speculative
but imprudent passion for horsing long stages, which had
led to his present embarrassments, looked extremely well, and
was soothing the excitement of his feelings with shrimps and porter.
The salutation between Mr. Weller and his friends was strictly
confined to the freemasonry of the craft; consisting of a jerking
round of the right wrist, and a tossing of the little finger into the
air at the same time. We once knew two famous coachmen (they
are dead now, poor fellows) who were twins, and between whom
an unaffected and devoted attachment existed. They passed
each other on the Dover road, every day, for twenty-four years,
never exchanging any other greeting than this; and yet, when
one died, the other pined away, and soon afterwards followed him!
'Vell, George,' said Mr. Weller senior, taking off his upper
coat, and seating himself with his accustomed gravity. 'How is it?
All right behind, and full inside?'
'All right, old feller,' replied the embarrassed gentleman.
'Is the gray mare made over to anybody?' inquired Mr. Weller
anxiously. George nodded in the affirmative.
'Vell, that's all right,' said Mr. Weller. 'Coach taken care on, also?'
'Con-signed in a safe quarter,' replied George, wringing the
heads off half a dozen shrimps, and swallowing them without any
'Wery good, wery good,' said Mr. Weller. 'Alvays see to the
drag ven you go downhill. Is the vay-bill all clear and straight
'The schedule, sir,' said Pell, guessing at Mr. Weller's meaning,
'the schedule is as plain and satisfactory as pen and ink can
Mr. Weller nodded in a manner which bespoke his inward
approval of these arrangements; and then, turning to Mr. Pell,
said, pointing to his friend George--
'Ven do you take his cloths off?'
'Why,' replied Mr. Pell, 'he stands third on the opposed list,
and I should think it would be his turn in about half an hour. I
told my clerk to come over and tell us when there was a chance.'
Mr. Weller surveyed the attorney from head to foot with great
admiration, and said emphatically--
'And what'll you take, sir?'