'This is Mrs. Bardell.'
'Oh, I know'd that long ago,' said the man.
Mrs. Bardell got in, Mr. Jackson got in after her, and away they drove. Mrs. Bardell could not help ruminating on what Mr. Jackson's friend had said. Shrewd creatures, those lawyers. Lord bless us, how they find people out!
'Sad thing about these costs of our people's, ain't it,' said Jackson, when Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders had fallen asleep; 'your bill of costs, I mean.'
'I'm very sorry they can't get them,' replied Mrs. Bardell. 'But if you law gentlemen do these things on speculation, why you must get a loss now and then, you know.'
'You gave them a COGNOVIT for the amount of your costs, after the trial, I'm told!' said Jackson.
'Yes. Just as a matter of form,' replied Mrs. Bardell.
'Certainly,' replied Jackson drily. 'Quite a matter of form. Quite.'
On they drove, and Mrs. Bardell fell asleep. She was awakened, after some time, by the stopping of the coach.
'Bless us!' said the lady.'Are we at Freeman's Court?'
'We're not going quite so far,' replied Jackson. 'Have the goodness to step out.'
Mrs. Bardell, not yet thoroughly awake, complied. It was a curious place: a large wall, with a gate in the middle, and a gas-light burning inside.
'Now, ladies,' cried the man with the ash stick, looking into the coach, and shaking Mrs. Sanders to wake her, 'Come!' Rousing her friend, Mrs. Sanders alighted. Mrs. Bardell, leaning on Jackson's arm, and leading Tommy by the hand, had already entered the porch. They followed.
The room they turned into was even more odd-looking than the porch. Such a number of men standing about! And they stared so!
'What place is this?' inquired Mrs. Bardell, pausing.
'Only one of our public offices,' replied Jackson, hurrying her through a door, and looking round to see that the other women were following. 'Look sharp, Isaac!'
'Safe and sound,' replied the man with the ash stick. The door swung heavily after them, and they descended a small flight of steps.
'Here we are at last. All right and tight, Mrs. Bardell!' said Jackson, looking exultingly round.
'What do you mean?' said Mrs. Bardell, with a palpitating heart.
'Just this,' replied Jackson, drawing her a little on one side; 'don't be frightened, Mrs. Bardell. There never was a more delicate man than Dodson, ma'am, or a more humane man than Fogg. It was their duty in the way of business, to take you in execution for them costs; but they were anxious to spare your feelings as much as they could. What a comfort it must be, to you, to think how it's been done! This is the Fleet, ma'am. Wish you good-night, Mrs. Bardell. Good-night, Tommy!'
As Jackson hurried away in company with the man with the ash stick another man, with a key in his hand, who had been looking on, led the bewildered female to a second short flight of steps leading to a doorway. Mrs. Bardell screamed violently; Tommy roared; Mrs. Cluppins shrunk within herself; and Mrs. Sanders made off, without more ado. For there stood the injured Mr. Pickwick, taking his nightly allowance of air; and beside him leant Samuel Weller, who, seeing Mrs. Bardell, took his hat off with mock reverence, while his master turned indignantly on his heel.
'Don't bother the woman,' said the turnkey to Weller; 'she's just come in.'
'A prisoner!' said Sam, quickly replacing his hat. 'Who's the plaintives? What for? Speak up, old feller.'
'Dodson and Fogg,' replied the man; 'execution on COGNOVIT for costs.'
'Here, Job, Job!' shouted Sam, dashing into the passage. 'Run to Mr. Perker's, Job. I want him directly. I see some good in this. Here's a game. Hooray! vere's the gov'nor?'
But there was no reply to these inquiries, for Job had started furiously off, the instant he received his commission, and Mrs. Bardell had fainted in real downright earnest.