Mr. Pickwick, whose face had been undergoing most surprising changes during this speech, and was evidently on the verge of a strong burst of indignation, calmed his wrath as well as he could. Perker, strengthening his argumentative powers with another pinch of snuff, proceeded —
'I have seen the woman, this morning. By paying the costs, you can obtain a full release and discharge from the damages; and further — this I know is a far greater object of consideration with you, my dear sir — a voluntary statement, under her hand, in the form of a letter to me, that this business was, from the very first, fomented, and encouraged, and brought about, by these men, Dodson and Fogg; that she deeply regrets ever having been the instrument of annoyance or injury to you; and that she entreats me to intercede with you, and implore your pardon.'
'If I pay her costs for her,' said Mr. Pickwick indignantly. 'A valuable document, indeed!'
'No "if" in the case, my dear Sir,' said Perker triumphantly. 'There is the very letter I speak of. Brought to my office by another woman at nine o'clock this morning, before I had set foot in this place, or held any communication with Mrs. Bardell, upon my honour.' Selecting the letter from the bundle, the little lawyer laid it at Mr. Pickwick's elbow, and took snuff for two consecutive minutes, without winking.
'Is this all you have to say to me?' inquired Mr. Pickwick mildly.
'Not quite,' replied Perker. 'I cannot undertake to say, at this moment, whether the wording of the cognovit, the nature of the ostensible consideration, and the proof we can get together about the whole conduct of the suit, will be sufficient to justify an indictment for conspiracy. I fear not, my dear Sir; they are too clever for that, I doubt. I do mean to say, however, that the whole facts, taken together, will be sufficient to justify you, in the minds of all reasonable men. And now, my dear Sir, I put it to you. This one hundred and fifty pounds, or whatever it may be — take it in round numbers — is nothing to you. A jury had decided against you; well, their verdict is wrong, but still they decided as they thought right, and it IS against you. You have now an opportunity, on easy terms, of placing yourself in a much higher position than you ever could, by remaining here; which would only be imputed, by people who didn't know you, to sheer dogged, wrongheaded, brutal obstinacy; nothing else, my dear Sir, believe me. Can you hesitate to avail yourself of it, when it restores you to your friends, your old pursuits, your health and amusements; when it liberates your faithful and attached servant, whom you otherwise doom to imprisonment for the whole of your life; and above all, when it enables you to take the very magnanimous revenge — which I know, my dear sir, is one after your own heart — of releasing this woman from a scene of misery and debauchery, to which no man should ever be consigned, if I had my will, but the infliction of which on any woman, is even more frightful and barbarous. Now I ask you, my dear sir, not only as your legal adviser, but as your very true friend, will you let slip the occasion of attaining all these objects, and doing all this good, for the paltry consideration of a few pounds finding their way into the pockets of a couple of rascals, to whom it makes no manner of difference, except that the more they gain, the more they'll seek, and so the sooner be led into some piece of knavery that must end in a crash? I have put these considerations to you, my dear Sir, very feebly and imperfectly, but I ask you to think of them. Turn them over in your mind as long as you please. I wait here most patiently for your answer.'
Before Mr. Pickwick could reply, before Mr. Perker had taken one twentieth part of the snuff with which so unusually long an address imperatively required to be followed up, there was a low murmuring of voices outside, and then a hesitating knock at the door.
'Dear, dear,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, who had been evidently roused by his friend's appeal; 'what an annoyance that door is! Who is that?'
'Me, Sir,' replied Sam Weller, putting in his head.
'I can't speak to you just now, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I am engaged at this moment, Sam.'
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'But here's a lady here, Sir, as says she's somethin' wery partickler to disclose.'
'I can't see any lady,' replied Mr. Pickwick, whose mind was filled with visions of Mrs. Bardell.
'I wouldn't make too sure o' that, Sir,' urged Mr. Weller, shaking his head. 'If you know'd who was near, sir, I rayther think you'd change your note; as the hawk remarked to himself vith a cheerful laugh, ven he heerd the robin-redbreast a-singin' round the corner.'
'Who is it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Will you see her, Sir?' asked Mr. Weller, holding the door in his hand as if he had some curious live animal on the other side.
'I suppose I must,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at Perker.
'Well then, all in to begin!' cried Sam. 'Sound the gong, draw up the curtain, and enter the two conspiraytors.'
As Sam Weller spoke, he threw the door open, and there rushed tumultuously into the room, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, leading after him by the hand, the identical young lady who at Dingley Dell had worn the boots with the fur round the tops, and who, now a very pleasing compound of blushes and confusion, and lilac silk, and a smart bonnet, and a rich lace veil, looked prettier than ever.
'Miss Arabella Allen!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, rising from his chair.
'No,' replied Mr. Winkle, dropping on his knees. 'Mrs. Winkle. Pardon, my dear friend, pardon!'
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses, and perhaps would not have done so, but for the corroborative testimony afforded by the smiling countenance of Perker, and the bodily presence, in the background, of Sam and the pretty housemaid; who appeared to contemplate the proceedings with the liveliest satisfaction.
'Oh, Mr. Pickwick!' said Arabella, in a low voice, as if alarmed at the silence. 'Can you forgive my imprudence?'
Mr. Pickwick returned no verbal response to this appeal; but he took off his spectacles in great haste, and seizing both the young lady's hands in his, kissed her a great number of times — perhaps a greater number than was absolutely necessary — and then, still retaining one of her hands, told Mr. Winkle he was an audacious young dog, and bade him get up. This, Mr. Winkle, who had been for some seconds scratching his nose with the brim of his hat, in a penitent manner, did; whereupon Mr. Pickwick slapped him on the back several times, and then shook hands heartily with Perker, who, not to be behind-hand in the compliments of the occasion, saluted both the bride and the pretty housemaid with right good-will, and, having wrung Mr. Winkle's hand most cordially, wound up his demonstrations of joy by taking snuff enough to set any half-dozen men with ordinarily-constructed noses, a-sneezing for life. 'Why, my dear girl,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'how has all this come about? Come! Sit down, and let me hear it all. How well she looks, doesn't she, Perker?' added Mr. Pickwick, surveying Arabella's face with a look of as much pride and exultation, as if she had been his daughter.
'Delightful, my dear Sir,' replied the little man. 'If I were not a married man myself, I should be disposed to envy you, you dog.' Thus expressing himself, the little lawyer gave Mr. Winkle a poke in the chest, which that gentleman reciprocated; after which they both laughed very loudly, but not so loudly as Mr. Samuel Weller, who had just relieved his feelings by kissing the pretty housemaid under cover of the cupboard door.
'I can never be grateful enough to you, Sam, I am sure,' said Arabella, with the sweetest smile imaginable. 'I shall not forget your exertions in the garden at Clifton.'
'Don't say nothin' wotever about it, ma'am,' replied Sam. 'I only assisted natur, ma'am; as the doctor said to the boy's mother, after he'd bled him to death.'
'Mary, my dear, sit down,' said Mr. Pickwick, cutting short these compliments. 'Now then; how long have you been married, eh?'
Arabella looked bashfully at her lord and master, who replied, 'Only three days.'