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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 74)


'I am for the plaintiff, my Lord,' said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz.

'Who is with you, Brother Buzfuz?' said the judge. Mr.Skimpin bowed, to intimate that he was.

'I appear for the defendant, my Lord,' said Mr. Serjeant Snubbin.

'Anybody with you, Brother Snubbin?' inquired the court.

'Mr. Phunky, my Lord,' replied Serjeant Snubbin.

'Serjeant Buzfuz and Mr. Skimpin for the plaintiff,' saidthe judge, writing down the names in his note-book, and readingas he wrote; 'for the defendant, Serjeant Snubbin and Mr. Monkey.'

'Beg your Lordship's pardon, Phunky.'

'Oh, very good,' said the judge; 'I never had the pleasure ofhearing the gentleman's name before.' Here Mr. Phunky bowedand smiled, and the judge bowed and smiled too, and then Mr.Phunky, blushing into the very whites of his eyes, tried to look asif he didn't know that everybody was gazing at him, a thingwhich no man ever succeeded in doing yet, or in all reasonableprobability, ever will.

'Go on,' said the judge.

The ushers again called silence, and Mr. Skimpin proceededto 'open the case'; and the case appeared to have very little insideit when he had opened it, for he kept such particulars as heknew, completely to himself, and sat down, after a lapse ofthree minutes, leaving the jury in precisely the same advancedstage of wisdom as they were in before.

Serjeant Buzfuz then rose with all the majesty and dignitywhich the grave nature of the proceedings demanded, andhaving whispered to Dodson, and conferred briefly with Fogg,pulled his gown over his shoulders, settled his wig, and addressedthe jury.

Serjeant Buzfuz began by saying, that never, in the wholecourse of his professional experience--never, from the very firstmoment of his applying himself to the study and practice of thelaw--had he approached a case with feelings of such deepemotion, or with such a heavy sense of the responsibility imposedupon him--a responsibility, he would say, which he could neverhave supported, were he not buoyed up and sustained by a convictionso strong, that it amounted to positive certainty that thecause of truth and justice, or, in other words, the cause of hismuch-injured and most oppressed client, must prevail with thehigh-minded and intelligent dozen of men whom he now saw inthat box before him.

Counsel usually begin in this way, because it puts the jury onthe very best terms with themselves, and makes them think whatsharp fellows they must be. A visible effect was producedimmediately, several jurymen beginning to take voluminous noteswith the utmost eagerness.

'You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen,' continuedSerjeant Buzfuz, well knowing that, from the learnedfriend alluded to, the gentlemen of the jury had heard justnothing at all--'you have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen,that this is an action for a breach of promise of marriage,in which the damages are laid at #1,500. But you have not heardfrom my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not come within mylearned friend's province to tell you, what are the facts andcircumstances of the case. Those facts and circumstances,gentlemen, you shall hear detailed by me, and proved bythe unimpeachable female whom I will place in that box before you.'

Here, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, with a tremendous emphasis onthe word 'box,' smote his table with a mighty sound, and glancedat Dodson and Fogg, who nodded admiration of the Serjeant,and indignant defiance of the defendant.

'The plaintiff, gentlemen,' continued Serjeant Buzfuz, in a softand melancholy voice, 'the plaintiff is a widow; yes, gentlemen, awidow. The late Mr. Bardell, after enjoying, for many years, theesteem and confidence of his sovereign, as one of the guardiansof his royal revenues, glided almost imperceptibly from theworld, to seek elsewhere for that repose and peace which acustom-house can never afford.'At this pathetic description of the decease of Mr. Bardell, whohad been knocked on the head with a quart-pot in a public-housecellar, the learned serjeant's voice faltered, and he proceeded,with emotion--

'Some time before his death, he had stamped his likeness upona little boy. With this little boy, the only pledge of her departedexciseman, Mrs. Bardell shrank from the world, and courted theretirement and tranquillity of Goswell Street; and here sheplaced in her front parlour window a written placard, bearingthis inscription--"Apartments furnished for a single gentleman.Inquire within."' Here Serjeant Buzfuz paused, while severalgentlemen of the jury took a note of the document.

'There is no date to that, is there?' inquired a juror.'There is no date, gentlemen,' replied Serjeant Buzfuz; 'but Iam instructed to say that it was put in the plaintiff's parlourwindow just this time three years. I entreat the attention of thejury to the wording of this document--"Apartments furnishedfor a single gentleman"! Mrs. Bardell's opinions of the oppositesex, gentlemen, were derived from a long contemplation of theinestimable qualities of her lost husband. She had no fear, shehad no distrust, she had no suspicion; all was confidence andreliance. "Mr. Bardell," said the widow--"Mr. Bardell was aman of honour, Mr. Bardell was a man of his word, Mr. Bardellwas no deceiver, Mr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself;to single gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, forcomfort, and for consolation; in single gentlemen I shallperpetually see something to remind me of what Mr. Bardell waswhen he first won my young and untried affections; to a singlegentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let." Actuated by thisbeautiful and touching impulse (among the best impulses of ourimperfect nature, gentlemen), the lonely and desolate widowdried her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boyto her maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour window.Did it remain there long? No. The serpent was on the watch, thetrain was laid, the mine was preparing, the sapper and miner wasat work. Before the bill had been in the parlour window threedays--three days, gentlemen--a being, erect upon two legs, andbearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of amonster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell's house. Heinquired within--he took the lodgings; and on the very next dayhe entered into possession of them. This man was Pickwick--Pickwick, the defendant.'

Serjeant Buzfuz, who had proceeded with such volubility thathis face was perfectly crimson, here paused for breath. Thesilence awoke Mr. Justice Stareleigh, who immediately wrotedown something with a pen without any ink in it, and lookedunusually profound, to impress the jury with the belief that healways thought most deeply with his eyes shut. Serjeant Buzfuzproceeded--

'Of this man Pickwick I will say little; the subject presents butfew attractions; and I, gentlemen, am not the man, nor are you,gentlemen, the men, to delight in the contemplation of revoltingheartlessness, and of systematic villainy.'

Here Mr. Pickwick, who had been writhing in silence for sometime, gave a violent start, as if some vague idea of assaultingSerjeant Buzfuz, in the august presence of justice and law,suggested itself to his mind. An admonitory gesture from Perkerrestrained him, and he listened to the learned gentleman'scontinuation with a look of indignation, which contrastedforcibly with the admiring faces of Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders.

'I say systematic villainy, gentlemen,' said Serjeant Buzfuz,looking through Mr. Pickwick, and talking AT him; 'and when Isay systematic villainy, let me tell the defendant Pickwick, if hebe in court, as I am informed he is, that it would have been moredecent in him, more becoming, in better judgment, and in bettertaste, if he had stopped away. Let me tell him, gentlemen, thatany gestures of dissent or disapprobation in which he mayindulge in this court will not go down with you; that you willknow how to value and how to appreciate them; and let me tell himfurther, as my Lord will tell you, gentlemen, that a counsel, in thedischarge of his duty to his client, is neither to be intimidatednor bullied, nor put down; and that any attempt to do eitherthe one or the other, or the first, or the last, will recoil on the headof the attempter, be he plaintiff or be he defendant, be his namePickwick, or Noakes, or Stoakes, or Stiles, or Brown, or Thompson.'

This little divergence from the subject in hand, had, of course,the intended effect of turning all eyes to Mr. Pickwick. SerjeantBuzfuz, having partially recovered from the state of moralelevation into which he had lashed himself, resumed--

'I shall show you, gentlemen, that for two years, Pickwickcontinued to reside constantly, and without interruption orintermission, at Mrs. Bardell's house. I shall show you thatMrs. Bardell, during the whole of that time, waited on him,attended to his comforts, cooked his meals, looked out his linenfor the washerwoman when it went abroad, darned, aired, andprepared it for wear, when it came home, and, in short, enjoyedhis fullest trust and confidence. I shall show you that, on manyoccasions, he gave halfpence, and on some occasions even sixpences,to her little boy; and I shall prove to you, by a witnesswhose testimony it will be impossible for my learned friend toweaken or controvert, that on one occasion he patted the boy onthe head, and, after inquiring whether he had won any "ALLEYTORS" or "COMMONEYS" lately (both of which I understand to be aparticular species of marbles much prized by the youth of thistown), made use of this remarkable expression, "How should youlike to have another father?" I shall prove to you, gentlemen,that about a year ago, Pickwick suddenly began to absent himselffrom home, during long intervals, as if with the intention ofgradually breaking off from my client; but I shall show you also,that his resolution was not at that time sufficiently strong, or thathis better feelings conquered, if better feelings he has, or that thecharms and accomplishments of my client prevailed against hisunmanly intentions, by proving to you, that on one occasion,when he returned from the country, he distinctly and in terms,offered her marriage: previously, however, taking special carethat there would be no witness to their solemn contract; and Iam in a situation to prove to you, on the testimony of three ofhis own friends--most unwilling witnesses, gentlemen--mostunwilling witnesses--that on that morning he was discovered bythem holding the plaintiff in his arms, and soothing her agitationby his caresses and endearments.'

A visible impression was produced upon the auditors by thispart of the learned Serjeant's address. Drawing forth two verysmall scraps of paper, he proceeded--'And now, gentlemen, but one word more. Two letters havepassed between these parties, letters which are admitted to be inthe handwriting of the defendant, and which speak volumes,indeed. The letters, too, bespeak the character of the man. Theyare not open, fervent, eloquent epistles, breathing nothing butthe language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly,underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusivethan if couched in the most glowing language and themost poetic imagery--letters that must be viewed with a cautiousand suspicious eye--letters that were evidently intended at thetime, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties intowhose hands they might fall. Let me read the first: "Garraways,twelve o'clock. Dear Mrs. B.--Chops and tomato sauce. Yours,PICKWICK." Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and tomatosauce. Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious heavens! and tomatosauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confidingfemale to be trifled away, by such shallow artifices as these? Thenext has no date whatever, which is in itself suspicious. "DearMrs. B., I shall not be at home till to-morrow. Slow coach."And then follows this very remarkable expression. "Don't troubleyourself about the warming-pan." The warming-pan! Why,gentlemen, who DOES trouble himself about a warming-pan?When was the peace of mind of man or woman broken or disturbedby a warming-pan, which is in itself a harmless, a useful,and I will add, gentlemen, a comforting article of domesticfurniture? Why is Mrs. Bardell so earnestly entreated not toagitate herself about this warming-pan, unless (as is no doubt thecase) it is a mere cover for hidden fire--a mere substitute forsome endearing word or promise, agreeably to a preconcertedsystem of correspondence, artfully contrived by Pickwick with aview to his contemplated desertion, and which I am not in acondition to explain? And what does this allusion to the slowcoach mean? For aught I know, it may be a reference to Pickwickhimself, who has most unquestionably been a criminally slowcoach during the whole of this transaction, but whose speed willnow be very unexpectedly accelerated, and whose wheels,gentlemen, as he will find to his cost, will very soon be greasedby you!'

Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz paused in this place, to see whether thejury smiled at his joke; but as nobody took it but the greengrocer,whose sensitiveness on the subject was very probably occasionedby his having subjected a chaise-cart to the process in questionon that identical morning, the learned Serjeant considered itadvisable to undergo a slight relapse into the dismals before heconcluded.

'But enough of this, gentlemen,' said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, 'itis difficult to smile with an aching heart; it is ill jesting when ourdeepest sympathies are awakened. My client's hopes and prospectsare ruined, and it is no figure of speech to say that her occupationis gone indeed. The bill is down--but there is no tenant. Eligiblesingle gentlemen pass and repass-but there is no invitation forto inquire within or without. All is gloom and silence in thehouse; even the voice of the child is hushed; his infant sports aredisregarded when his mother weeps; his "alley tors" and his"commoneys" are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiarcry of "knuckle down," and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, hishand is out. But Pickwick, gentlemen, Pickwick, the ruthlessdestroyer of this domestic oasis in the desert of Goswell Street--Pickwick who has choked up the well, and thrown ashes on thesward--Pickwick, who comes before you to-day with his heartlesstomato sauce and warming-pans--Pickwick still rears his headwith unblushing effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruinhe has made. Damages, gentlemen--heavy damages is the onlypunishment with which you can visit him; the only recompenseyou can award to my client. And for those damages she nowappeals to an enlightened, a high-minded, a right-feeling, aconscientious, a dispassionate, a sympathising, a contemplative juryof her civilised countrymen.' With this beautiful peroration,Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz sat down, and Mr. Justice Stareleighwoke up.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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