At this consolatory reflection, Mrs. Cluppins bridled up, and smiled at Mrs. Sanders, who smiled back again.
'The action's going on, and no mistake,' thought Sam, as Mrs. Bardell re-entered with the receipt.
'Here's the receipt, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'and here's the change, and I hope you'll take a little drop of something to keep the cold out, if it's only for old acquaintance' sake, Mr. Weller.'
Sam saw the advantage he should gain, and at once acquiesced; whereupon Mrs. Bardell produced, from a small closet, a black bottle and a wine-glass; and so great was her abstraction, in her deep mental affliction, that, after filling Mr. Weller's glass, she brought out three more wine-glasses, and filled them too.
'Lauk, Mrs. Bardell,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'see what you've been and done!'
'Well, that is a good one!' ejaculated Mrs. Sanders.
'Ah, my poor head!' said Mrs. Bardell, with a faint smile.
Sam understood all this, of course, so he said at once, that he never could drink before supper, unless a lady drank with him. A great deal of laughter ensued, and Mrs. Sanders volunteered to humour him, so she took a slight sip out of her glass. Then Sam said it must go all round, so they all took a slight sip. Then little Mrs. Cluppins proposed as a toast, 'Success to Bardell agin Pickwick'; and then the ladies emptied their glasses in honour of the sentiment, and got very talkative directly.
'I suppose you've heard what's going forward, Mr. Weller?' said Mrs. Bardell.
'I've heerd somethin' on it,' replied Sam.
'It's a terrible thing to be dragged before the public, in that way, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell; 'but I see now, that it's the only thing I ought to do, and my lawyers, Mr. Dodson and Fogg, tell me that, with the evidence as we shall call, we must succeed. I don't know what I should do, Mr. Weller, if I didn't.'
The mere idea of Mrs. Bardell's failing in her action, affected Mrs. Sanders so deeply, that she was under the necessity of refilling and re-emptying her glass immediately; feeling, as she said afterwards, that if she hadn't had the presence of mind to do so, she must have dropped.
'Ven is it expected to come on?' inquired Sam.
'Either in February or March,' replied Mrs. Bardell.
'What a number of witnesses there'll be, won't there?' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'Ah! won't there!' replied Mrs. Sanders.
'And won't Mr. Dodson and Fogg be wild if the plaintiff shouldn't get it?' added Mrs. Cluppins, 'when they do it all on speculation!'
'Ah! won't they!' said Mrs. Sanders.
'But the plaintiff must get it,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins.
'I hope so,' said Mrs. Bardell.
'Oh, there can't be any doubt about it,' rejoined Mrs. Sanders.
'Vell,' said Sam, rising and setting down his glass, 'all I can say is, that I vish you MAY get it.'
'Thank'ee, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell fervently.
'And of them Dodson and Foggs, as does these sort o' things on spec,' continued Mr. Weller, 'as vell as for the other kind and gen'rous people o' the same purfession, as sets people by the ears, free gratis for nothin', and sets their clerks to work to find out little disputes among their neighbours and acquaintances as vants settlin' by means of lawsuits — all I can say o' them is, that I vish they had the reward I'd give 'em.'
'Ah, I wish they had the reward that every kind and generous heart would be inclined to bestow upon them!' said the gratified Mrs. Bardell.
'Amen to that,' replied Sam, 'and a fat and happy liven' they'd get out of it! Wish you good-night, ladies.'
To the great relief of Mrs. Sanders, Sam was allowed to depart without any reference, on the part of the hostess, to the pettitoes and toasted cheese; to which the ladies, with such juvenile assistance as Master Bardell could afford, soon afterwards rendered the amplest justice — indeed they wholly vanished before their strenuous exertions.
Mr. Weller wended his way back to the George and Vulture, and faithfully recounted to his master, such indications of the sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg, as he had contrived to pick up in his visit to Mrs. Bardell's. An interview with Mr. Perker, next day, more than confirmed Mr. Weller's statement; and Mr. Pickwick was fain to prepare for his Christmas visit to Dingley Dell, with the pleasant anticipation that some two or three months afterwards, an action brought against him for damages sustained by reason of a breach of promise of marriage, would be publicly tried in the Court of Common Pleas; the plaintiff having all the advantages derivable, not only from the force of circumstances, but from the sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg to boot.