Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 42)

Here the man proceeded to mend his pen with great deliberation,while another clerk, who was mixing a Seidlitz powder,under cover of the lid of his desk, laughed approvingly.

'I think I'll wait,' said Mr. Pickwick. There was no reply; soMr. Pickwick sat down unbidden, and listened to the loud tickingof the clock and the murmured conversation of the clerks.

'That was a game, wasn't it?' said one of the gentlemen, in abrown coat and brass buttons, inky drabs, and bluchers, at theconclusion of some inaudible relation of his previous evening'sadventures.

'Devilish good--devilish good,' said the Seidlitz-powder man.'Tom Cummins was in the chair,' said the man with the browncoat. 'It was half-past four when I got to Somers Town, and thenI was so uncommon lushy, that I couldn't find the place where thelatch-key went in, and was obliged to knock up the old 'ooman.I say, I wonder what old Fogg 'ud say, if he knew it. I should getthe sack, I s'pose--eh?'

At this humorous notion, all the clerks laughed in concert.

'There was such a game with Fogg here, this mornin',' said theman in the brown coat, 'while Jack was upstairs sorting thepapers, and you two were gone to the stamp-office. Fogg wasdown here, opening the letters when that chap as we issued thewrit against at Camberwell, you know, came in--what's hisname again?'

'Ramsey,' said the clerk who had spoken to Mr. Pickwick.

'Ah, Ramsey--a precious seedy-looking customer. "Well, sir,"says old Fogg, looking at him very fierce--you know his way--"well, Sir, have you come to settle?" "Yes, I have, sir," saidRamsey, putting his hand in his pocket, and bringing out themoney, "the debt's two pound ten, and the costs three poundfive, and here it is, Sir;" and he sighed like bricks, as he lugged outthe money, done up in a bit of blotting-paper. Old Fogg lookedfirst at the money, and then at him, and then he coughed in hisrum way, so that I knew something was coming. "You don'tknow there's a declaration filed, which increases the costsmaterially, I suppose," said Fogg. "You don't say that, sir,"said Ramsey, starting back; "the time was only out last night,Sir." "I do say it, though," said Fogg, "my clerk's just gone tofile it. Hasn't Mr. Jackson gone to file that declaration inBullman and Ramsey, Mr. Wicks?" Of course I said yes, andthen Fogg coughed again, and looked at Ramsey. "My God!"said Ramsey; "and here have I nearly driven myself mad, scrapingthis money together, and all to no purpose." "None at all," saidFogg coolly; "so you had better go back and scrape some moretogether, and bring it here in time." "I can't get it, by God!" saidRamsey, striking the desk with his fist. "Don't bully me, sir,"said Fogg, getting into a passion on purpose. "I am not bullyingyou, sir," said Ramsey. "You are," said Fogg; "get out, sir; getout of this office, Sir, and come back, Sir, when you know how tobehave yourself." Well, Ramsey tried to speak, but Fogg wouldn'tlet him, so he put the money in his pocket, and sneaked out. Thedoor was scarcely shut, when old Fogg turned round to me, witha sweet smile on his face, and drew the declaration out of his coatpocket. "Here, Wicks," says Fogg, "take a cab, and go down tothe Temple as quick as you can, and file that. The costs are quitesafe, for he's a steady man with a large family, at a salary offive-and-twenty shillings a week, and if he gives us a warrant ofattorney, as he must in the end, I know his employers will see itpaid; so we may as well get all we can get out of him, Mr. Wicks;it's a Christian act to do it, Mr. Wicks, for with his large familyand small income, he'll be all the better for a good lesson againstgetting into debt--won't he, Mr. Wicks, won't he?"--and hesmiled so good-naturedly as he went away, that it was delightfulto see him. He is a capital man of business,' said Wicks, in a toneof the deepest admiration, 'capital, isn't he?'

The other three cordially subscribed to this opinion, and theanecdote afforded the most unlimited satisfaction.

'Nice men these here, Sir,' whispered Mr. Weller to his master;'wery nice notion of fun they has, Sir.'

Mr. Pickwick nodded assent, and coughed to attract theattention of the young gentlemen behind the partition, who,having now relaxed their minds by a little conversation amongthemselves, condescended to take some notice of the stranger.

'I wonder whether Fogg's disengaged now?' said Jackson.

'I'll see,' said Wicks, dismounting leisurely from his stool.'What name shall I tell Mr. Fogg?'

'Pickwick,' replied the illustrious subject of these memoirs.

Mr. Jackson departed upstairs on his errand, and immediatelyreturned with a message that Mr. Fogg would see Mr. Pickwickin five minutes; and having delivered it, returned again to his desk.

'What did he say his name was?' whispered Wicks.

'Pickwick,' replied Jackson; 'it's the defendant in Bardelland Pickwick.'

A sudden scraping of feet, mingled with the sound of suppressedlaughter, was heard from behind the partition.

'They're a-twiggin' of you, Sir,' whispered Mr. Weller.

'Twigging of me, Sam!' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'what do youmean by twigging me?'

Mr. Weller replied by pointing with his thumb over hisshoulder, and Mr. Pickwick, on looking up, became sensible ofthe pleasing fact, that all the four clerks, with countenancesexpressive of the utmost amusement, and with their heads thrustover the wooden screen, were minutely inspecting the figure andgeneral appearance of the supposed trifler with female hearts, anddisturber of female happiness. On his looking up, the row of headssuddenly disappeared, and the sound of pens travelling at afurious rate over paper, immediately succeeded.

A sudden ring at the bell which hung in the office, summonedMr. Jackson to the apartment of Fogg, from whence he cameback to say that he (Fogg) was ready to see Mr. Pickwick if hewould step upstairs.Upstairs Mr. Pickwick did step accordingly, leaving SamWeller below. The room door of the one-pair back, boreinscribed in legible characters the imposing words, 'Mr. Fogg'; and,having tapped thereat, and been desired to come in, Jacksonushered Mr. Pickwick into the presence.

'Is Mr. Dodson in?' inquired Mr. Fogg.

'Just come in, Sir,' replied Jackson.

'Ask him to step here.'

'Yes, sir.' Exit Jackson.

'Take a seat, sir,' said Fogg; 'there is the paper, sir; my partnerwill be here directly, and we can converse about this matter, sir.'

Mr. Pickwick took a seat and the paper, but, instead ofreading the latter, peeped over the top of it, and took a survey ofthe man of business, who was an elderly, pimply-faced, vegetable-diet sort of man, in a black coat, dark mixture trousers, andsmall black gaiters; a kind of being who seemed to be an essentialpart of the desk at which he was writing, and to have as muchthought or feeling.

After a few minutes' silence, Mr. Dodson, a plump, portly,stern-looking man, with a loud voice, appeared; and theconversation commenced.

'This is Mr. Pickwick,' said Fogg.

'Ah! You are the defendant, Sir, in Bardell and Pickwick?'said Dodson.

'I am, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Well, sir,' said Dodson, 'and what do you propose?'

'Ah!' said Fogg, thrusting his hands into his trousers' pockets,and throwing himself back in his chair, 'what do you propose,Mr Pickwick?'

'Hush, Fogg,' said Dodson, 'let me hear what Mr. Pickwick hasto say.'

'I came, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick, gazing placidly on thetwo partners, 'I came here, gentlemen, to express the surprise withwhich I received your letter of the other day, and to inquire whatgrounds of action you can have against me.'

'Grounds of--' Fogg had ejaculated this much, when he wasstopped by Dodson.

'Mr. Fogg,' said Dodson, 'I am going to speak.''I beg your pardon, Mr. Dodson,' said Fogg.

'For the grounds of action, sir,' continued Dodson, with moralelevation in his air, 'you will consult your own conscience andyour own feelings. We, Sir, we, are guided entirely by the statementof our client. That statement, Sir, may be true, or it may befalse; it may be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true,and if it be credible, I do not hesitate to say, Sir, that our groundsof action, Sir, are strong, and not to be shaken. You may be anunfortunate man, Sir, or you may be a designing one; but if I werecalled upon, as a juryman upon my oath, Sir, to express anopinion of your conduct, Sir, I do not hesitate to assert that Ishould have but one opinion about it.' Here Dodson drew himselfup, with an air of offended virtue, and looked at Fogg,who thrust his hands farther in his pockets, and noddinghis head sagely, said, in a tone of the fullest concurrence,'Most certainly.'

'Well, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, with considerable pain depictedin his countenance, 'you will permit me to assure you that I am amost unfortunate man, so far as this case is concerned.'

'I hope you are, Sir,' replied Dodson; 'I trust you may be, Sir.If you are really innocent of what is laid to your charge, you aremore unfortunate than I had believed any man could possibly be.What do you say, Mr. Fogg?'

'I say precisely what you say,' replied Fogg, with a smileof incredulity.

'The writ, Sir, which commences the action,' continuedDodson, 'was issued regularly. Mr. Fogg, where is the PRAECIPE book?'

'Here it is,' said Fogg, handing over a square book, with aparchment cover.

'Here is the entry,' resumed Dodson. '"Middlesex, CapiasMARTHA BARDELL, WIDOW, v. SAMUEL PICKWICK. Damages #1500.Dodson & Fogg for the plaintiff, Aug. 28, 1827." All regular, Sir;perfectly.' Dodson coughed and looked at Fogg, who said'Perfectly,' also. And then they both looked at Mr. Pickwick.

'I am to understand, then,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that it really isyour intention to proceed with this action?'

'Understand, sir!--that you certainly may,' replied Dodson,with something as near a smile as his importance would allow.

'And that the damages are actually laid at fifteen hundred pounds?'said Mr. Pickwick.

'To which understanding you may add my assurance, that ifwe could have prevailed upon our client, they would have beenlaid at treble the amount, sir,' replied Dodson.'I believe Mrs. Bardell specially said, however,' observed Fogg,glancing at Dodson, 'that she would not compromise for afarthing less.'

'Unquestionably,' replied Dodson sternly. For the action wasonly just begun; and it wouldn't have done to let Mr. Pickwickcompromise it then, even if he had been so disposed.

'As you offer no terms, sir,' said Dodson, displaying a slip ofparchment in his right hand, and affectionately pressing a papercopy of it, on Mr. Pickwick with his left, 'I had better serve youwith a copy of this writ, sir. Here is the original, sir.'

'Very well, gentlemen, very well,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising inperson and wrath at the same time; 'you shall hear from mysolicitor, gentlemen.'

'We shall be very happy to do so,' said Fogg, rubbing his hands.

'Very,' said Dodson, opening the door.

'And before I go, gentlemen,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick,turning round on the landing, 'permit me to say, that of all thedisgraceful and rascally proceedings--'

'Stay, sir, stay,' interposed Dodson, with great politeness.'Mr. Jackson! Mr. Wicks!'

'Sir,' said the two clerks, appearing at the bottom of the stairs.

'I merely want you to hear what this gentleman says,' repliedDodson. 'Pray, go on, sir--disgraceful and rascally proceedings,I think you said?'

'I did,' said Mr. Pickwick, thoroughly roused. 'I said, Sir, thatof all the disgraceful and rascally proceedings that ever wereattempted, this is the most so. I repeat it, sir.'

'You hear that, Mr. Wicks,' said Dodson.

'You won't forget these expressions, Mr. Jackson?' said Fogg.

'Perhaps you would like to call us swindlers, sir,' said Dodson.'Pray do, Sir, if you feel disposed; now pray do, Sir.'

'I do,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'You ARE swindlers.'

'Very good,' said Dodson. 'You can hear down there, I hope,Mr. Wicks?'

'Oh, yes, Sir,' said Wicks.

'You had better come up a step or two higher, if you can't,'added Mr. Fogg. 'Go on, Sir; do go on. You had better call usthieves, Sir; or perhaps You would like to assault one Of US. Praydo it, Sir, if you would; we will not make the smallest resistance.Pray do it, Sir.'

As Fogg put himself very temptingly within the reach of Mr.Pickwick's clenched fist, there is little doubt that that gentlemanwould have complied with his earnest entreaty, but for theinterposition of Sam, who, hearing the dispute, emerged from theoffice, mounted the stairs, and seized his master by the arm.

'You just come away,' said Mr. Weller. 'Battledore andshuttlecock's a wery good game, vhen you ain't the shuttlecockand two lawyers the battledores, in which case it gets too excitin'to be pleasant. Come avay, Sir. If you want to ease your mind byblowing up somebody, come out into the court and blow up me;but it's rayther too expensive work to be carried on here.'

And without the slightest ceremony, Mr. Weller hauled hismaster down the stairs, and down the court, and having safelydeposited him in Cornhill, fell behind, prepared to followwhithersoever he should lead.

Mr. Pickwick walked on abstractedly, crossed opposite theMansion House, and bent his steps up Cheapside. Sam began towonder where they were going, when his master turned round,and said--

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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