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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 66)


The man in the brown coat, with the cabalistic documents inhis 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, hebent his steps direct to Sun Court, and walking straight into theGeorge and Vulture, demanded to know whether one Mr. Pickwickwas within.

'Call Mr. Pickwick's servant, Tom,' said the barmaid of theGeorge and Vulture.

'Don't trouble yourself,' said Mr. Jackson. 'I've come onbusiness. 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; butMr. 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, whenMr. Jackson presented himself, as above described.

'How de do, sir?' said Mr. Jackson, nodding to Mr. Pickwick.

That gentleman bowed, and looked somewhat surprised, forthe physiognomy of Mr. Jackson dwelt not in his recollection.

'I have called from Dodson and Fogg's,' said Mr. Jackson, inan 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 thisgentleman out.'

'Beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,' said Jackson, deliberatelydepositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket thestrip of parchment. 'But personal service, by clerk or agent, inthese cases, you know, Mr. Pickwick--nothing like caution, sir,in all legal forms--eh?'

Here Mr. Jackson cast his eye on the parchment; and, restinghis hands on the table, and looking round with a winning andpersuasive smile, said, 'Now, come; don't let's have no wordsabout such a little matter as this. Which of you gentlemen'sname's Snodgrass?'

At this inquiry, Mr. Snodgrass gave such a very undisguisedand 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 theplaintiff,' replied Jackson, singling out one of the slips of paper,and producing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket. 'It'll comeon, in the settens after Term: fourteenth of Febooary, we expect;we've marked it a special jury cause, and it's only ten down thepaper. That's yours, Mr. Snodgrass.' As Jackson said this, hepresented the parchment before the eyes of Mr. Snodgrass, andslipped 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 noencouragement in that gentleman's widely-opened eyes to denyhis 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 bothgentlemen were forthwith invested with a slip of paper, and ashilling each, by the dexterous Mr. Jackson.

'Now,' said Jackson, 'I'm afraid you'll think me rathertroublesome, 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 waiterretired, considerably astonished, and Mr. Pickwick motionedJackson to a seat.

There was a painful pause, which was at length broken by theinnocent defendant.'I suppose, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, his indignation rising while hespoke--'I suppose, Sir, that it is the intention of your employersto seek to criminate me upon the testimony of my own friends?'

Mr. Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the leftside of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose thesecrets of the prison house, and playfully rejoined--

'Not knowin', can't say.'

'For what other reason, Sir,' pursued Mr. Pickwick, 'are thesesubpoenas served upon them, if not for this?'

'Very good plant, Mr. Pickwick,' replied Jackson, slowlyshaking his head. 'But it won't do. No harm in trying, but there'slittle 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 visionarycoffee-mill with his right hand, thereby performing a verygraceful 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'speople must guess what we've served these subpoenas for. If theycan't, they must wait till the action comes on, and then they'llfind out.'Mr. Pickwick bestowed a look of excessive disgust on hisunwelcome visitor, and would probably have hurled sometremendous 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 requiredexplanation.

'Which?' said Sam.

'This,' replied Jackson, shaking the parchment.

'Oh, that's the 'rig'nal, is it?' said Sam. 'Well, I'm wery gladI've seen the 'rig'nal, 'cos it's a gratifyin' sort o' thing, and easesvun'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 knowsso little of me, to come down vith a present,' said Sam. 'I feel itas a wery high compliment, sir; it's a wery honorable thing tothem, 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 righteyelid, with the sleeve of his coat, after the most approvedmanner 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, hemade a feint of putting on the one glove which he usually carriedin his hand, for the sake of appearances; and returned to theoffice to report progress.

Mr. Pickwick slept little that night; his memory had receiveda very disagreeable refresher on the subject of Mrs. Bardell'saction. He breakfasted betimes next morning, and, desiring Samto accompany him, set forth towards Gray's Inn Square.

'Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, looking round, when they got to theend of Cheapside.

'Sir?' said Sam, stepping up to his master.

'Which way?''Up Newgate Street.'

Mr. Pickwick did not turn round immediately, but lookedvacantly 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 abreach o' promise trial.'

Mr. Weller's smile awakened no gleam of mirth in his master'scountenance. Mr. Pickwick turned abruptly round, and led theway in silence.

They had walked some distance, Mr. Pickwick trotting onbefore, plunged in profound meditation, and Sam followingbehind, with a countenance expressive of the most enviable andeasy defiance of everything and everybody, when the latter, whowas always especially anxious to impart to his master anyexclusive information he possessed, quickened his pace until hewas close at Mr. Pickwick's heels; and, pointing up at a housethey 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 raytherthink it was. Why, sir, bless your innocent eyebrows, that's wherethe mysterious disappearance of a 'spectable tradesman tookplace 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; farworse than that. He was the master o' that 'ere shop, sir, and theinwentor o' the patent-never-leavin'-off sassage steam-ingin, as'ud swaller up a pavin' stone if you put it too near, and grind itinto sassages as easy as if it was a tender young babby. Weryproud o' that machine he was, as it was nat'ral he should be, andhe'd stand down in the celler a-lookin' at it wen it was in fullplay, till he got quite melancholy with joy. A wery happy manhe'd ha' been, Sir, in the procession o' that 'ere ingin and twomore lovely hinfants besides, if it hadn't been for his wife, whowas a most owdacious wixin. She was always a-follerin' himabout, and dinnin' in his ears, till at last he couldn't stand it nolonger. "I'll tell you what it is, my dear," he says one day; "if youpersewere in this here sort of amusement," he says, "I'mblessed 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 oftheir bargain." Arter which she keeps on abusin' of him for halfan 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 afit, which lasts for three good hours--one o' them fits wich is allscreamin' and kickin'. Well, next mornin', the husband wasmissin'. He hadn't taken nothin' from the till--hadn't even puton 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; missishad bills printed, sayin' that, if he'd come back, he should beforgiven everythin' (which was very liberal, seein' that he hadn'tdone nothin' at all); the canals was dragged, and for two monthsarterwards, wenever a body turned up, it was carried, as a reg'larthing, straight off to the sassage shop. Hows'ever, none on 'emanswered; so they gave out that he'd run away, and she kep' onthe bis'ness. One Saturday night, a little, thin, old gen'l'm'ncomes into the shop in a great passion and says, "Are you themissis 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 familyain'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'tuse the primest parts of the meat in the manafacter o' sassages,I'd think you'd find beef come nearly as cheap as buttons." "Asbuttons, Sir!" says she. "Buttons, ma'am," says the little, oldgentleman, unfolding a bit of paper, and showin' twenty orthirty halves o' buttons. "Nice seasonin' for sassages, is trousers'buttons, ma'am." "They're my husband's buttons!" says thewidder beginnin' to faint, "What!" screams the little oldgen'l'm'n, turnin' wery pale. "I see it all," says the widder; "in afit of temporary insanity he rashly converted hisself intosassages!" And so he had, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, looking steadilyinto Mr. Pickwick's horror-stricken countenance, 'or else he'dbeen draw'd into the ingin; but however that might ha' been, thelittle, old gen'l'm'n, who had been remarkably partial to sassagesall his life, rushed out o' the shop in a wild state, and was neverheerd on arterwards!'

The relation of this affecting incident of private life broughtmaster and man to Mr. Perker's chambers. Lowten, holding thedoor 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, forhe 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 withhis pen, and rubbing it out again with the feather. 'Will youleave a message for him?'

'When do you think he'll be back?' inquired the stranger.

'Quite uncertain,' replied Lowten, winking at Mr. Pickwick, asthe 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 littlemore into the centre of the doorway. 'He's certain not to be backthis week, and it's a chance whether he will be next; for whenPerker 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!'

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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