The Pickwick Papers By Charles Dickens Chapters 52-54


When Arabella, after some gentle preparation and many assurances that there was not the least occasion for being low-spirited, was at length made acquainted by Mr. Pickwick with the unsatisfactory result of his visit to Birmingham, she burst into tears, and sobbing aloud, lamented in moving terms that she should have been the unhappy cause of any estrangement between a father and his son.

'My dear girl,' said Mr. Pickwick kindly, 'it is no fault of yours. It was impossible to foresee that the old gentleman would be so strongly prepossessed against his son's marriage, you know. I am sure,' added Mr. Pickwick, glancing at her pretty face, 'he can have very little idea of the pleasure he denies himself.'

'Oh, my dear Mr. Pickwick,' said Arabella, 'what shall we do, if he continues to be angry with us?'

'Why, wait patiently, my dear, until he thinks better of it,' replied Mr. Pickwick cheerfully.

'But, dear Mr. Pickwick, what is to become of Nathaniel if his father withdraws his assistance?' urged Arabella.

'In that case, my love,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, 'I will venture to prophesy that he will find some other friend who will not be backward in helping him to start in the world.'

The significance of this reply was not so well disguised by Mr. Pickwick but that Arabella understood it. So, throwing her arms round his neck, and kissing him affectionately, she sobbed louder than before.

'Come, come,' said Mr. Pickwick taking her hand, 'we will wait here a few days longer, and see whether he writes or takes any other notice of your husband's communication. If not, I have thought of half a dozen plans, any one of which would make you happy at once. There, my dear, there!'

With these words, Mr. Pickwick gently pressed Arabella's hand, and bade her dry her eyes, and not distress her husband. Upon which, Arabella, who was one of the best little creatures alive, put her handkerchief in her reticule, and by the time Mr. Winkle joined them, exhibited in full lustre the same beaming smiles and sparkling eyes that had originally captivated him.

'This is a distressing predicament for these young people,' thought Mr. Pickwick, as he dressed himself next morning. 'I'll walk up to Perker's, and consult him about the matter.'

As Mr. Pickwick was further prompted to betake himself to Gray's Inn Square by an anxious desire to come to a pecuniary settlement with the kind-hearted little attorney without further delay, he made a hurried breakfast, and executed his intention so speedily, that ten o'clock had not struck when he reached Gray's Inn.

It still wanted ten minutes to the hour when he had ascended the staircase on which Perker's chambers were. The clerks had not arrived yet, and he beguiled the time by looking out of the staircase window. The healthy light of a fine October morning made even the dingy old houses brighten up a little; some of the dusty windows actually looking almost cheerful as the sun's rays gleamed upon them. Clerk after clerk hastened into the square by one or other of the entrances, and looking up at the Hall clock, accelerated or decreased his rate of walking according to the time at which his office hours nominally commenced; the half-past nine o'clock people suddenly becoming very brisk, and the ten o'clock gentlemen falling into a pace of most aristocratic slowness. The clock struck ten, and clerks poured in faster than ever, each one in a greater perspiration than his predecessor. The noise of unlocking and opening doors echoed and re-echoed on every side; heads appeared as if by magic in every window; the porters took up their stations for the day; the slipshod laundresses hurried off; the postman ran from house to house; and the whole legal hive was in a bustle.

'You're early, Mr. Pickwick,' said a voice behind him.

'Ah, Mr. Lowten,' replied that gentleman, looking round, and recognising his old acquaintance.

'Precious warm walking, isn't it?' said Lowten, drawing a Bramah key from his pocket, with a small plug therein, to keep the dust out.

'You appear to feel it so,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, smiling at the clerk, who was literally red-hot.

'I've come along, rather, I can tell you,' replied Lowten. 'It went the half hour as I came through the Polygon. I'm here before him, though, so I don't mind.'

Comforting himself with this reflection, Mr. Lowten extracted the plug from the door-key; having opened the door, replugged and repocketed his Bramah, and picked up the letters which the postman had dropped through the box, he ushered Mr. Pickwick into the office. Here, in the twinkling of an eye, he divested himself of his coat, put on a threadbare garment, which he took out of a desk, hung up his hat, pulled forth a few sheets of cartridge and blotting-paper in alternate layers, and, sticking a pen behind his ear, rubbed his hands with an air of great satisfaction.

'There, you see, Mr. Pickwick,' he said, 'now I'm complete. I've got my office coat on, and my pad out, and let him come as soon as he likes. You haven't got a pinch of snuff about you, have you?'

'No, I have not,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'I'm sorry for it,' said Lowten. 'Never mind. I'll run out presently, and get a bottle of soda. Don't I look rather queer about the eyes, Mr. Pickwick?'

The individual appealed to, surveyed Mr. Lowten's eyes from a distance, and expressed his opinion that no unusual queerness was perceptible in those features.

'I'm glad of it,' said Lowten. 'We were keeping it up pretty tolerably at the Stump last night, and I'm rather out of sorts this morning. Perker's been about that business of yours, by the bye.'

'What business?' inquired Mr. Pickwick. 'Mrs. Bardell's costs?'

'No, I don't mean that,' replied Mr. Lowten. 'About getting that customer that we paid the ten shillings in the pound to the bill-discounter for, on your account — to get him out of the Fleet, you know — about getting him to Demerara.'

'Oh, Mr. Jingle,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily. 'Yes. Well?'

'Well, it's all arranged,' said Lowten, mending his pen. 'The agent at Liverpool said he had been obliged to you many times when you were in business, and he would be glad to take him on your recommendation.'

'That's well,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I am delighted to hear it.'

'But I say,' resumed Lowten, scraping the back of the pen preparatory to making a fresh split, 'what a soft chap that other is!'

'Which other?'

'Why, that servant, or friend, or whatever he is; you know, Trotter.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile. 'I always thought him the reverse.'

'Well, and so did I, from what little I saw of him,' replied Lowten, 'it only shows how one may be deceived. What do you think of his going to Demerara, too?'

'What! And giving up what was offered him here!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

'Treating Perker's offer of eighteen bob a week, and a rise if he behaved himself, like dirt,' replied Lowten. 'He said he must go along with the other one, and so they persuaded Perker to write again, and they've got him something on the same estate; not near so good, Perker says, as a convict would get in New South Wales, if he appeared at his trial in a new suit of clothes.'

'Foolish fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, with glistening eyes. 'Foolish fellow.'

'Oh, it's worse than foolish; it's downright sneaking, you know,' replied Lowten, nibbing the pen with a contemptuous face. 'He says that he's the only friend he ever had, and he's attached to him, and all that. Friendship's a very good thing in its way — we are all very friendly and comfortable at the Stump, for instance, over our grog, where every man pays for himself; but damn hurting yourself for anybody else, you know! No man should have more than two attachments — the first, to number one, and the second to the ladies; that's what I say — ha! ha!' Mr. Lowten concluded with a loud laugh, half in jocularity, and half in derision, which was prematurely cut short by the sound of Perker's footsteps on the stairs, at the first approach of which, he vaulted on his stool with an agility most remarkable, and wrote intensely.

The greeting between Mr. Pickwick and his professional adviser was warm and cordial; the client was scarcely ensconced in the attorney's arm-chair, however, when a knock was heard at the door, and a voice inquired whether Mr. Perker was within.

'Hark!' said Perker, 'that's one of our vagabond friends — Jingle himself, my dear Sir. Will you see him?'

'What do you think?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, hesitating.

'Yes, I think you had better. Here, you Sir, what's your name, walk in, will you?'

In compliance with this unceremonious invitation, Jingle and Job walked into the room, but, seeing Mr. Pickwick, stopped short in some confusion. 'Well,' said Perker, 'don't you know that gentleman?'

'Good reason to,' replied Mr. Jingle, stepping forward. 'Mr. Pickwick — deepest obligations — life preserver — made a man of me — you shall never repent it, Sir.'

'I am happy to hear you say so,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'You look much better.'

'Thanks to you, sir — great change — Majesty's Fleet — unwholesome place — very,' said Jingle, shaking his head. He was decently and cleanly dressed, and so was Job, who stood bolt upright behind him, staring at Mr. Pickwick with a visage of iron.

'When do they go to Liverpool?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Perker.

'This evening, Sir, at seven o'clock,' said Job, taking one step forward. 'By the heavy coach from the city, Sir.'

'Are your places taken?'

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