The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 46-47


Job Trotter, abating nothing of his speed, ran up Holborn, sometimes in the middle of the road, sometimes on the pavement, sometimes in the gutter, as the chances of getting along varied with the press of men, women, children, and coaches, in each division of the thoroughfare, and, regardless of all obstacles stopped not for an instant until he reached the gate of Gray's Inn. Notwithstanding all the expedition he had used, however, the gate had been closed a good half-hour when he reached it, and by the time he had discovered Mr. Perker's laundress, who lived with a married daughter, who had bestowed her hand upon a non-resident waiter, who occupied the one-pair of some number in some street closely adjoining to some brewery somewhere behind Gray's Inn Lane, it was within fifteen minutes of closing the prison for the night. Mr. Lowten had still to be ferreted out from the back parlour of the Magpie and Stump; and Job had scarcely accomplished this object, and communicated Sam Weller's message, when the clock struck ten.

'There,' said Lowten, 'it's too late now. You can't get in to-night; you've got the key of the street, my friend.'

'Never mind me,' replied Job. 'I can sleep anywhere. But won't it be better to see Mr. Perker to-night, so that we may be there, the first thing in the morning?'

'Why,' responded Lowten, after a little consideration, 'if it was in anybody else's case, Perker wouldn't be best pleased at my going up to his house; but as it's Mr. Pickwick's, I think I may venture to take a cab and charge it to the office.' Deciding on this line of conduct, Mr. Lowten took up his hat, and begging the assembled company to appoint a deputy-chairman during his temporary absence, led the way to the nearest coach-stand. Summoning the cab of most promising appearance, he directed the driver to repair to Montague Place, Russell Square.

Mr. Perker had had a dinner-party that day, as was testified by the appearance of lights in the drawing-room windows, the sound of an improved grand piano, and an improvable cabinet voice issuing therefrom, and a rather overpowering smell of meat which pervaded the steps and entry. In fact, a couple of very good country agencies happening to come up to town, at the same time, an agreeable little party had been got together to meet them, comprising Mr. Snicks, the Life Office Secretary, Mr. Prosee, the eminent counsel, three solicitors, one commissioner of bankrupts, a special pleader from the Temple, a small-eyed peremptory young gentleman, his pupil, who had written a lively book about the law of demises, with a vast quantity of marginal notes and references; and several other eminent and distinguished personages. From this society, little Mr. Perker detached himself, on his clerk being announced in a whisper; and repairing to the dining-room, there found Mr. Lowten and Job Trotter looking very dim and shadowy by the light of a kitchen candle, which the gentleman who condescended to appear in plush shorts and cottons for a quarterly stipend, had, with a becoming contempt for the clerk and all things appertaining to 'the office,' placed upon the table.

'Now, Lowten,' said little Mr. Perker, shutting the door,'what's the matter? No important letter come in a parcel, is there?'

'No, Sir,' replied Lowten. 'This is a messenger from Mr. Pickwick, Sir.'

'From Pickwick, eh?' said the little man, turning quickly to Job. 'Well, what is it?'

'Dodson and Fogg have taken Mrs. Bardell in execution for her costs, Sir,' said Job.

'No!' exclaimed Perker, putting his hands in his pockets, and reclining against the sideboard.

'Yes,' said Job. 'It seems they got a cognovit out of her, for the amount of 'em, directly after the trial.'

'By Jove!' said Perker, taking both hands out of his pockets, and striking the knuckles of his right against the palm of his left, emphatically, 'those are the cleverest scamps I ever had anything to do with!'

'The sharpest practitioners I ever knew, Sir,' observed Lowten.

'Sharp!' echoed Perker. 'There's no knowing where to have them.'

'Very true, Sir, there is not,' replied Lowten; and then, both master and man pondered for a few seconds, with animated countenances, as if they were reflecting upon one of the most beautiful and ingenious discoveries that the intellect of man had ever made. When they had in some measure recovered from their trance of admiration, Job Trotter discharged himself of the rest of his commission. Perker nodded his head thoughtfully, and pulled out his watch.

'At ten precisely, I will be there,' said the little man. 'Sam is quite right. Tell him so. Will you take a glass of wine, Lowten?' 'No, thank you, Sir.'

'You mean yes, I think,' said the little man, turning to the sideboard for a decanter and glasses.

As Lowten DID mean yes, he said no more on the subject, but inquired of Job, in an audible whisper, whether the portrait of Perker, which hung opposite the fireplace, wasn't a wonderful likeness, to which Job of course replied that it was. The wine being by this time poured out, Lowten drank to Mrs. Perker and the children, and Job to Perker. The gentleman in the plush shorts and cottons considering it no part of his duty to show the people from the office out, consistently declined to answer the bell, and they showed themselves out. The attorney betook himself to his drawing-room, the clerk to the Magpie and Stump, and Job to Covent Garden Market to spend the night in a vegetable basket.

Punctually at the appointed hour next morning, the good-humoured little attorney tapped at Mr. Pickwick's door, which was opened with great alacrity by Sam Weller.

'Mr. Perker, sir,' said Sam, announcing the visitor to Mr. Pickwick, who was sitting at the window in a thoughtful attitude. 'Wery glad you've looked in accidentally, Sir. I rather think the gov'nor wants to have a word and a half with you, Sir.'

Perker bestowed a look of intelligence on Sam, intimating that he understood he was not to say he had been sent for; and beckoning him to approach, whispered briefly in his ear.

'You don't mean that 'ere, Sir?' said Sam, starting back in excessive surprise.

Perker nodded and smiled.

Mr. Samuel Weller looked at the little lawyer, then at Mr. Pickwick, then at the ceiling, then at Perker again; grinned, laughed outright, and finally, catching up his hat from the carpet, without further explanation, disappeared.

'What does this mean?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, looking at Perker with astonishment. 'What has put Sam into this extraordinary state?'

'Oh, nothing, nothing,' replied Perker. 'Come, my dear Sir, draw up your chair to the table. I have a good deal to say to you.'

'What papers are those?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, as the little man deposited on the table a small bundle of documents tied with red tape.

'The papers in Bardell and Pickwick,' replied Perker, undoing the knot with his teeth.

Mr. Pickwick grated the legs of his chair against the ground; and throwing himself into it, folded his hands and looked sternly — if Mr. Pickwick ever could look sternly — at his legal friend.

'You don't like to hear the name of the cause?' said the little man, still busying himself with the knot.

'No, I do not indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'Sorry for that,' resumed Perker, 'because it will form the subject of our conversation.'

'I would rather that the subject should be never mentioned between us, Perker,' interposed Mr. Pickwick hastily.

'Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir,' said the little man, untying the bundle, and glancing eagerly at Mr. Pickwick out of the corners of his eyes. 'It must be mentioned. I have come here on purpose. Now, are you ready to hear what I have to say, my dear Sir? No hurry; if you are not, I can wait. I have this morning's paper here. Your time shall be mine. There!' Hereupon, the little man threw one leg over the other, and made a show of beginning to read with great composure and application.

'Well, well,' said Mr. Pickwick, with a sigh, but softening into a smile at the same time. 'Say what you have to say; it's the old story, I suppose?'

'With a difference, my dear Sir; with a difference,' rejoined Perker, deliberately folding up the paper and putting it into his pocket again. 'Mrs. Bardell, the plaintiff in the action, is within these walls, Sir.'

'I know it,' was Mr. Pickwick's reply.

'Very good,' retorted Perker. 'And you know how she comes here, I suppose; I mean on what grounds, and at whose suit?'

'Yes; at least I have heard Sam's account of the matter,' said Mr. Pickwick, with affected carelessness.

'Sam's account of the matter,' replied Perker, 'is, I will venture to say, a perfectly correct one. Well now, my dear Sir, the first question I have to ask, is, whether this woman is to remain here?'

'To remain here!' echoed Mr. Pickwick.

'To remain here, my dear Sir,' rejoined Perker, leaning back in his chair and looking steadily at his client.

'How can you ask me?' said that gentleman. 'It rests with Dodson and Fogg; you know that very well.'

'I know nothing of the kind,' retorted Perker firmly. 'It does NOT rest with Dodson and Fogg; you know the men, my dear Sir, as well as I do. It rests solely, wholly, and entirely with you.'

'With me!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, rising nervously from his chair, and reseating himself directly afterwards.

The little man gave a double-knock on the lid of his snuff-box, opened it, took a great pinch, shut it up again, and repeated the words, 'With you.'

'I say, my dear Sir,' resumed the little man, who seemed to gather confidence from the snuff — 'I say, that her speedy liberation or perpetual imprisonment rests with you, and with you alone. Hear me out, my dear Sir, if you please, and do not be so very energetic, for it will only put you into a perspiration and do no good whatever. I say,' continued Perker, checking off each position on a different finger, as he laid it down — 'I say that nobody but you can rescue her from this den of wretchedness; and that you can only do that, by paying the costs of this suit — both of plaintive and defendant — into the hands of these Freeman Court sharks. Now pray be quiet, my dear sir.'

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.