Long before the close of this address, which we are bound to say was of a very prosy character for Mr. Pickwick, the Serjeant had relapsed into a state of abstraction. After some minutes, however, during which he had reassumed his pen, he appeared to be again aware of the presence of his clients; raising his head from the paper, he said, rather snappishly —
'Who is with me in this case?'
'Mr. Phunky, Serjeant Snubbin,' replied the attorney.
'Phunky — Phunky,' said the Serjeant, 'I never heard the name before. He must be a very young man.'
'Yes, he is a very young man,' replied the attorney. 'He was only called the other day. Let me see — he has not been at the Bar eight years yet.'
'Ah, I thought not,' said the Serjeant, in that sort of pitying tone in which ordinary folks would speak of a very helpless little child. 'Mr. Mallard, send round to Mr. — Mr. — ' 'Phunky's — Holborn Court, Gray's Inn,' interposed Perker. (Holborn Court, by the bye, is South Square now.) 'Mr. Phunky, and say I should be glad if he'd step here, a moment.'
Mr. Mallard departed to execute his commission; and Serjeant Snubbin relapsed into abstraction until Mr. Phunky himself was introduced.
Although an infant barrister, he was a full-grown man. He had a very nervous manner, and a painful hesitation in his speech; it did not appear to be a natural defect, but seemed rather the result of timidity, arising from the consciousness of being 'kept down' by want of means, or interest, or connection, or impudence, as the case might be. He was overawed by the Serjeant, and profoundly courteous to the attorney.
'I have not had the pleasure of seeing you before, Mr. Phunky,' said Serjeant Snubbin, with haughty condescension.
Mr. Phunky bowed. He HAD had the pleasure of seeing the Serjeant, and of envying him too, with all a poor man's envy, for eight years and a quarter.
'You are with me in this case, I understand?' said the Serjeant.
If Mr. Phunky had been a rich man, he would have instantly sent for his clerk to remind him; if he had been a wise one, he would have applied his forefinger to his forehead, and endeavoured to recollect, whether, in the multiplicity of his engagements, he had undertaken this one or not; but as he was neither rich nor wise (in this sense, at all events) he turned red, and bowed.
'Have you read the papers, Mr. Phunky?' inquired the Serjeant.
Here again, Mr. Phunky should have professed to have forgotten all about the merits of the case; but as he had read such papers as had been laid before him in the course of the action, and had thought of nothing else, waking or sleeping, throughout the two months during which he had been retained as Mr. Serjeant Snubbin's junior, he turned a deeper red and bowed again.
'This is Mr. Pickwick,' said the Serjeant, waving his pen in the direction in which that gentleman was standing.
Mr. Phunky bowed to Mr. Pickwick, with a reverence which a first client must ever awaken; and again inclined his head towards his leader.
'Perhaps you will take Mr. Pickwick away,' said the Serjeant, 'and — and — and — hear anything Mr. Pickwick may wish to communicate. We shall have a consultation, of course.' With that hint that he had been interrupted quite long enough, Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who had been gradually growing more and more abstracted, applied his glass to his eyes for an instant, bowed slightly round, and was once more deeply immersed in the case before him, which arose out of an interminable lawsuit, originating in the act of an individual, deceased a century or so ago, who had stopped up a pathway leading from some place which nobody ever came from, to some other place which nobody ever went to.
Mr. Phunky would not hear of passing through any door until Mr. Pickwick and his solicitor had passed through before him, so it was some time before they got into the Square; and when they did reach it, they walked up and down, and held a long conference, the result of which was, that it was a very difficult matter to say how the verdict would go; that nobody could presume to calculate on the issue of an action; that it was very lucky they had prevented the other party from getting Serjeant Snubbin; and other topics of doubt and consolation, common in such a position of affairs.
Mr. Weller was then roused by his master from a sweet sleep of an hour's duration; and, bidding adieu to Lowten, they returned to the city.