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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 73)


'No, sir,' rejoined Mr. Stiggins; 'No, sir. I will not, sir.'

The meeting looked at each other with raised eyelids; and amurmur of astonishment ran through the room.

'It's my opinion, sir,' said Mr. Stiggins, unbuttoning his coat,and speaking very loudly--'it's my opinion, sir, that this meetingis drunk, sir. Brother Tadger, sir!' said Mr. Stiggins, suddenlyincreasing in ferocity, and turning sharp round on the little manin the drab shorts, 'YOU are drunk, sir!' With this, Mr. Stiggins,entertaining a praiseworthy desire to promote the sobriety of themeeting, and to exclude therefrom all improper characters, hitBrother Tadger on the summit of the nose with such unerringaim, that the drab shorts disappeared like a flash of lightning.Brother Tadger had been knocked, head first, down the ladder.

Upon this, the women set up a loud and dismal screaming;and rushing in small parties before their favourite brothers, flungtheir arms around them to preserve them from danger. Aninstance of affection, which had nearly proved fatal to Humm,who, being extremely popular, was all but suffocated, by thecrowd of female devotees that hung about his neck, and heapedcaresses upon him. The greater part of the lights were quicklyput out, and nothing but noise and confusion resounded on all sides.

'Now, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, taking off his greatcoat withmuch deliberation, 'just you step out, and fetch in a watchman.'

'And wot are you a-goin' to do, the while?' inquired Sam.

'Never you mind me, Sammy,' replied the old gentleman; 'Ishall ockipy myself in havin' a small settlement with that 'ereStiggins.' Before Sam could interfere to prevent it, his heroicparent had penetrated into a remote corner of the room, andattacked the Reverend Mr. Stiggins with manual dexterity.

'Come off!' said Sam.

'Come on!' cried Mr. Weller; and without further invitationhe gave the Reverend Mr. Stiggins a preliminary tap on the head,and began dancing round him in a buoyant and cork-likemanner, which in a gentleman at his time of life was a perfectmarvel to behold.

Finding all remonstrances unavailing, Sam pulled his hatfirmly on, threw his father's coat over his arm, and taking the oldman round the waist, forcibly dragged him down the ladder, andinto the street; never releasing his hold, or permitting him tostop, until they reached the corner. As they gained it, they couldhear the shouts of the populace, who were witnessing the removalof the Reverend Mr. Stiggins to strong lodgings for the night,and could hear the noise occasioned by the dispersion in variousdirections of the members of the Brick Lane Branch of theUnited Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association.

CHAPTER XXXIVIS WHOLLY DEVOTED TO A FULL AND FAITHFUL REPORTOF THE MEMORABLE TRIAL OF BARDELL AGAINST PICKWICK

'I wonder what the foreman of the jury, whoever he'll be, has gotfor breakfast,' said Mr. Snodgrass, by way of keeping up aconversation on the eventful morning of the fourteenth of February.

'Ah!' said Perker, 'I hope he's got a good one.''Why so?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Highly important--very important, my dear Sir,' repliedPerker. 'A good, contented, well-breakfasted juryman is a capitalthing to get hold of. Discontented or hungry jurymen, my dearsir, always find for the plaintiff.'

'Bless my heart,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking very blank, 'whatdo they do that for?'

'Why, I don't know,' replied the little man coolly; 'saves time,I suppose. If it's near dinner-time, the foreman takes out hiswatch when the jury has retired, and says, "Dear me, gentlemen,ten minutes to five, I declare! I dine at five, gentlemen." "So do I,"says everybody else, except two men who ought to have dined atthree and seem more than half disposed to stand out in consequence.The foreman smiles, and puts up his watch:--"Well,gentlemen, what do we say, plaintiff or defendant, gentlemen? Irather think, so far as I am concerned, gentlemen,--I say, Irather think--but don't let that influence you--I RATHER thinkthe plaintiff's the man." Upon this, two or three other menare sure to say that they think so too--as of course they do; andthen they get on very unanimously and comfortably. Ten minutespast nine!' said the little man, looking at his watch.'Time we wereoff, my dear sir; breach of promise trial-court is generally fullin such cases. You had better ring for a coach, my dear sir, or weshall be rather late.'

Mr. Pickwick immediately rang the bell, and a coach havingbeen procured, the four Pickwickians and Mr. Perker ensconcedthemselves therein, and drove to Guildhall; Sam Weller, Mr.Lowten, and the blue bag, following in a cab.

'Lowten,' said Perker, when they reached the outer hall of thecourt, 'put Mr. Pickwick's friends in the students' box; Mr.Pickwick himself had better sit by me. This way, my dear sir, thisway.' Taking Mr. Pickwick by the coat sleeve, the little man ledhim to the low seat just beneath the desks of the King's Counsel,which is constructed for the convenience of attorneys, who fromthat spot can whisper into the ear of the leading counsel in thecase, any instructions that may be necessary during the progressof the trial. The occupants of this seat are invisible to the greatbody of spectators, inasmuch as they sit on a much lower levelthan either the barristers or the audience, whose seats are raisedabove the floor. Of course they have their backs to both, andtheir faces towards the judge.

'That's the witness-box, I suppose?' said Mr. Pickwick,pointing to a kind of pulpit, with a brass rail, on his left hand.

'That's the witness-box, my dear sir,' replied Perker,disinterring a quantity of papers from the blue bag, which Lowtenhad just deposited at his feet.

'And that,' said Mr. Pickwick, pointing to a couple of enclosedseats on his right, 'that's where the jurymen sit, is it not?'

'The identical place, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, tapping thelid of his snuff-box.

Mr. Pickwick stood up in a state of great agitation, and took aglance at the court. There were already a pretty large sprinklingof spectators in the gallery, and a numerous muster of gentlemenin wigs, in the barristers' seats, who presented, as a body, all thatpleasing and extensive variety of nose and whisker for which theBar of England is so justly celebrated. Such of the gentlemen ashad a brief to carry, carried it in as conspicuous a manner aspossible, and occasionally scratched their noses therewith, toimpress the fact more strongly on the observation of the spectators.Other gentlemen, who had no briefs to show, carriedunder their arms goodly octavos, with a red label behind, and thatunder-done-pie-crust-coloured cover, which is technically knownas 'law calf.' Others, who had neither briefs nor books, thrusttheir hands into their pockets, and looked as wise as theyconveniently could; others, again, moved here and there with greatrestlessness and earnestness of manner, content to awakenthereby the admiration and astonishment of the uninitiatedstrangers. The whole, to the great wonderment of Mr, Pickwick,were divided into little groups, who were chatting and discussingthe news of the day in the most unfeeling manner possible--just asif no trial at all were coming on.

A bow from Mr. Phunky, as he entered, and took his seatbehind the row appropriated to the King's Counsel, attractedMr. Pickwick's attention; and he had scarcely returned it, whenMr. Serjeant Snubbin appeared, followed by Mr. Mallard, whohalf hid the Serjeant behind a large crimson bag, which heplaced on his table, and, after shaking hands with Perker, withdrew.Then there entered two or three more Serjeants; and among them,one with a fat body and a red face, who nodded in a friendlymanner to Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, and said it was a fine morning.

'Who's that red-faced man, who said it was a fine morning,and nodded to our counsel?' whispered Mr. Pickwick.

'Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz,' replied Perker. 'He's opposed to us; heleads on the other side. That gentleman behind him is Mr.Skimpin, his junior.'

Mr. Pickwick was on the point of inquiring, with greatabhorrence of the man's cold-blooded villainy, how Mr, SerjeantBuzfuz, who was counsel for the opposite party, dared to presumeto tell Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who was counsel for him, that itwas a fine morning, when he was interrupted by a general risingof the barristers, and a loud cry of 'Silence!' from the officers ofthe court. Looking round, he found that this was caused by theentrance of the judge.

Mr. Justice Stareleigh (who sat in the absence of the ChiefJustice, occasioned by indisposition) was a most particularlyshort man, and so fat, that he seemed all face and waistcoat. Herolled in, upon two little turned legs, and having bobbed gravelyto the Bar, who bobbed gravely to him, put his little legs underneathhis table, and his little three-cornered hat upon it;and when Mr. Justice Stareleigh had done this, all you couldsee of him was two queer little eyes, one broad pink face,and somewhere about half of a big and very comical-looking wig.

The judge had no sooner taken his seat, than the officer on thefloor of the court called out 'Silence!' in a commanding tone,upon which another officer in the gallery cried 'Silence!' in anangry manner, whereupon three or four more ushers shouted'Silence!' in a voice of indignant remonstrance. This being done,a gentleman in black, who sat below the judge, proceeded to callover the names of the jury; and after a great deal of bawling,it was discovered that only ten special jurymen were present.Upon this, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz prayed a TALES; the gentlemanin black then proceeded to press into the special jury, two of thecommon jurymen; and a greengrocer and a chemist were caught directly.

'Answer to your names, gentlemen, that you may be sworn,'said the gentleman in black. 'Richard Upwitch.'

'Here,' said the greengrocer.

'Thomas Groffin.'

'Here,' said the chemist.

'Take the book, gentlemen. You shall well and truly try--'

'I beg this court's pardon,' said the chemist, who was a tall, thin,yellow-visaged man, 'but I hope this court will excuse my attendance.'

'On what grounds, Sir?' said Mr. Justice Stareleigh.

'I have no assistant, my Lord,' said the chemist.

'I can't help that, Sir,' replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh. 'Youshould hire one.'

'I can't afford it, my Lord,' rejoined the chemist.

'Then you ought to be able to afford it, Sir,' said the judge,reddening; for Mr. Justice Stareleigh's temper bordered on theirritable, and brooked not contradiction.

'I know I OUGHT to do, if I got on as well as I deserved; but Idon't, my Lord,' answered the chemist.

'Swear the gentleman,' said the judge peremptorily.

The officer had got no further than the 'You shall well andtruly try,' when he was again interrupted by the chemist.

'I am to be sworn, my Lord, am I?' said the chemist.

'Certainly, sir,' replied the testy little judge.

'Very well, my Lord,' replied the chemist, in a resignedmanner. 'Then there'll be murder before this trial's over; that'sall. Swear me, if you please, Sir;' and sworn the chemist was,before the judge could find words to utter.

'I merely wanted to observe, my Lord,' said the chemist,taking his seat with great deliberation, 'that I've left nobody butan errand-boy in my shop. He is a very nice boy, my Lord, buthe is not acquainted with drugs; and I know that the prevailingimpression on his mind is, that Epsom salts means oxalic acid;and syrup of senna, laudanum. That's all, my Lord.' With this,the tall chemist composed himself into a comfortable attitude,and, assuming a pleasant expression of countenance, appeared tohave prepared himself for the worst.

Mr. Pickwick was regarding the chemist with feelings of thedeepest horror, when a slight sensation was perceptible in thebody of the court; and immediately afterwards Mrs. Bardell,supported by Mrs. Cluppins, was led in, and placed, in a droopingstate, at the other end of the seat on which Mr. Pickwick sat.An extra-sized umbrella was then handed in by Mr. Dodson, anda pair of pattens by Mr. Fogg, each of whom had prepared amost sympathising and melancholy face for the occasion. Mrs.Sanders then appeared, leading in Master Bardell. At sight ofher child, Mrs. Bardell started; suddenly recollecting herself, shekissed him in a frantic manner; then relapsing into a state ofhysterical imbecility, the good lady requested to be informedwhere she was. In reply to this, Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sandersturned their heads away and wept, while Messrs. Dodson andFogg entreated the plaintiff to compose herself. Serjeant Buzfuzrubbed his eyes very hard with a large white handkerchief, andgave an appealing look towards the jury, while the judge wasvisibly affected, and several of the beholders tried to cough downtheir emotion.

'Very good notion that indeed,' whispered Perker to Mr.Pickwick. 'Capital fellows those Dodson and Fogg; excellentideas of effect, my dear Sir, excellent.'

As Perker spoke, Mrs. Bardell began to recover by slowdegrees, while Mrs. Cluppins, after a careful survey of MasterBardell's buttons and the button-holes to which they severallybelonged, placed him on the floor of the court in front of hismother--a commanding position in which he could not fail toawaken the full commiseration and sympathy of both judge andjury. This was not done without considerable opposition, andmany tears, on the part of the young gentleman himself, who hadcertain inward misgivings that the placing him within the fullglare of the judge's eye was only a formal prelude to his beingimmediately ordered away for instant execution, or for transportationbeyond the seas, during the whole term of his naturallife, at the very least.

'Bardell and Pickwick,' cried the gentleman in black, callingon the case, which stood first on the list.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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