The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 55-56

CHAPTER LV. Mr. SOLOMON PELL, ASSISTED BY A SELECT COMMITTEE OF COACHMEN, ARRANGES THE AFFAIRS OF THE ELDER Mr. WELLER

'Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, accosting his son on the morning after the funeral, 'I've found it, Sammy. I thought it wos there.'

'Thought wot wos there?' inquired Sam.

'Your mother-in-law's vill, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller. 'In wirtue o' vich, them arrangements is to be made as I told you on, last night, respectin' the funs.'

'Wot, didn't she tell you were it wos?' inquired Sam.

'Not a bit on it, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller. 'We wos a adjestin' our little differences, and I wos a-cheerin' her spirits and bearin' her up, so that I forgot to ask anythin' about it. I don't know as I should ha' done it, indeed, if I had remembered it,' added Mr. Weller, 'for it's a rum sort o' thing, Sammy, to go a-hankerin' arter anybody's property, ven you're assistin' 'em in illness. It's like helping an outside passenger up, ven he's been pitched off a coach, and puttin' your hand in his pocket, vile you ask him, vith a sigh, how he finds his-self, Sammy.'

With this figurative illustration of his meaning, Mr. Weller unclasped his pocket-book, and drew forth a dirty sheet of letter-paper, on which were inscribed various characters crowded together in remarkable confusion.

'This here is the dockyment, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller. 'I found it in the little black tea-pot, on the top shelf o' the bar closet. She used to keep bank-notes there, 'fore she vos married, Samivel. I've seen her take the lid off, to pay a bill, many and many a time. Poor creetur, she might ha' filled all the tea-pots in the house vith vills, and not have inconwenienced herself neither, for she took wery little of anythin' in that vay lately, 'cept on the temperance nights, ven they just laid a foundation o' tea to put the spirits atop on!'

'What does it say?' inquired Sam.

'Jist vot I told you, my boy,' rejoined his parent. 'Two hundred pound vurth o' reduced counsels to my son-in-law, Samivel, and all the rest o' my property, of ev'ry kind and description votsoever, to my husband, Mr. Tony Veller, who I appint as my sole eggzekiter.'

'That's all, is it?' said Sam.

'That's all,' replied Mr. Weller. 'And I s'pose as it's all right and satisfactory to you and me as is the only parties interested, ve may as vell put this bit o' paper into the fire.'

'Wot are you a-doin' on, you lunatic?' said Sam, snatching the paper away, as his parent, in all innocence, stirred the fire preparatory to suiting the action to the word. 'You're a nice eggzekiter, you are.'

'Vy not?' inquired Mr. Weller, looking sternly round, with the poker in his hand.

'Vy not?' exclaimed Sam. ''Cos it must be proved, and probated, and swore to, and all manner o' formalities.'

'You don't mean that?' said Mr. Weller, laying down the poker.

Sam buttoned the will carefully in a side pocket; intimating by a look, meanwhile, that he did mean it, and very seriously too.

'Then I'll tell you wot it is,' said Mr. Weller, after a short meditation, 'this is a case for that 'ere confidential pal o' the Chancellorship's. Pell must look into this, Sammy. He's the man for a difficult question at law. Ve'll have this here brought afore the Solvent Court, directly, Samivel.'

'I never did see such a addle-headed old creetur!' exclaimed Sam irritably; 'Old Baileys, and Solvent Courts, and alleybis, and ev'ry species o' gammon alvays a-runnin' through his brain. You'd better get your out o' door clothes on, and come to town about this bisness, than stand a-preachin' there about wot you don't understand nothin' on.'

'Wery good, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, 'I'm quite agreeable to anythin' as vill hexpedite business, Sammy. But mind this here, my boy, nobody but Pell — nobody but Pell as a legal adwiser.'

'I don't want anybody else,' replied Sam. 'Now, are you a-comin'?'

'Vait a minit, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, who, having tied his shawl with the aid of a small glass that hung in the window, was now, by dint of the most wonderful exertions, struggling into his upper garments. 'Vait a minit' Sammy; ven you grow as old as your father, you von't get into your veskit quite as easy as you do now, my boy.'

'If I couldn't get into it easier than that, I'm blessed if I'd vear vun at all,' rejoined his son.

'You think so now,' said Mr. Weller, with the gravity of age, 'but you'll find that as you get vider, you'll get viser. Vidth and visdom, Sammy, alvays grows together.'

As Mr. Weller delivered this infallible maxim — the result of many years' personal experience and observation — he contrived, by a dexterous twist of his body, to get the bottom button of his coat to perform its office. Having paused a few seconds to recover breath, he brushed his hat with his elbow, and declared himself ready.

'As four heads is better than two, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, as they drove along the London Road in the chaise-cart, 'and as all this here property is a wery great temptation to a legal gen'l'm'n, ve'll take a couple o' friends o' mine vith us, as'll be wery soon down upon him if he comes anythin' irreg'lar; two o' them as saw you to the Fleet that day. They're the wery best judges,' added Mr. Weller, in a half-whisper — 'the wery best judges of a horse, you ever know'd.'

'And of a lawyer too?' inquired Sam.

'The man as can form a ackerate judgment of a animal, can form a ackerate judgment of anythin',' replied his father, so dogmatically, that Sam did not attempt to controvert the position.

In pursuance of this notable resolution, the services of the mottled-faced gentleman and of two other very fat coachmen — selected by Mr. Weller, probably, with a view to their width and consequent wisdom — were put into requisition; and this assistance having been secured, the party proceeded to the public-house in Portugal Street, whence a messenger was despatched to the Insolvent Court over the way, requiring Mr. Solomon Pell's immediate attendance.

The messenger fortunately found Mr. Solomon Pell in court, regaling himself, business being rather slack, with a cold collation of an Abernethy biscuit and a saveloy. The message was no sooner whispered in his ear than he thrust them in his pocket among various professional documents, and hurried over the way with such alacrity that he reached the parlour before the messenger had even emancipated himself from the court.

'Gentlemen,' said Mr. Pell, touching his hat, 'my service to you all. I don't say it to flatter you, gentlemen, but there are not five other men in the world, that I'd have come out of that court for, to-day.'

'So busy, eh?' said Sam.

'Busy!' replied Pell; 'I'm completely sewn up, as my friend the late Lord Chancellor many a time used to say to me, gentlemen, when he came out from hearing appeals in the House of Lords. Poor fellow; he was very susceptible to fatigue; he used to feel those appeals uncommonly. I actually thought more than once that he'd have sunk under 'em; I did, indeed.'

Here Mr. Pell shook his head and paused; on which, the elder Mr. Weller, nudging his neighbour, as begging him to mark the attorney's high connections, asked whether the duties in question produced any permanent ill effects on the constitution of his noble friend.

'I don't think he ever quite recovered them,' replied Pell; 'in fact I'm sure he never did. "Pell," he used to say to me many a time, "how the blazes you can stand the head-work you do, is a mystery to me." — "Well," I used to answer, "I hardly know how I do it, upon my life." — "Pell," he'd add, sighing, and looking at me with a little envy — friendly envy, you know, gentlemen, mere friendly envy; I never minded it — "Pell, you're a wonder; a wonder." Ah! you'd have liked him very much if you had known him, gentlemen. Bring me three-penn'orth of rum, my dear.'

Addressing this latter remark to the waitress, in a tone of subdued grief, Mr. Pell sighed, looked at his shoes and the ceiling; and, the rum having by that time arrived, drank it up.

'However,' said Pell, drawing a chair to the table, 'a professional man has no right to think of his private friendships when his legal assistance is wanted. By the bye, gentlemen, since I saw you here before, we have had to weep over a very melancholy occurrence.'

Mr. Pell drew out a pocket-handkerchief, when he came to the word weep, but he made no further use of it than to wipe away a slight tinge of rum which hung upon his upper lip.

'I saw it in the ADVERTISER, Mr. Weller,' continued Pell. 'Bless my soul, not more than fifty-two! Dear me — only think.'

These indications of a musing spirit were addressed to the mottled-faced man, whose eyes Mr. Pell had accidentally caught; on which, the mottled-faced man, whose apprehension of matters in general was of a foggy nature, moved uneasily in his seat, and opined that, indeed, so far as that went, there was no saying how things was brought about; which observation, involving one of those subtle propositions which it is difficult to encounter in argument, was controverted by nobody.

'I have heard it remarked that she was a very fine woman, Mr. Weller,' said Pell, in a sympathising manner.

'Yes, sir, she wos,' replied the elder Mr. Weller, not much relishing this mode of discussing the subject, and yet thinking that the attorney, from his long intimacy with the late Lord Chancellor, must know best on all matters of polite breeding. 'She wos a wery fine 'ooman, sir, ven I first know'd her. She wos a widder, sir, at that time.'

'Now, it's curious,' said Pell, looking round with a sorrowful smile; 'Mrs. Pell was a widow.'

'That's very extraordinary,' said the mottled-faced man.

'Well, it is a curious coincidence,' said Pell.

'Not at all,' gruffly remarked the elder Mr. Weller. 'More widders is married than single wimin.'

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

By the end of the novel, Dickens proposes a viable solution to some of the social problems he addresses, like debtor's prison.


Quiz