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The Pickwick Papers 207







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this affecting incident of private life brought master and man to Mr. Perkers chambers. Lowten, holding the door half open, was in conversation with a rustily-clad, miserable- looking man, in boots without toes and gloves without fingers. There were traces of privation and suffering--almost of despair --in his lank and care-worn countenance; he felt his poverty, for he shrank to the dark side of the staircase as Mr. Pickwick approached. Its very unfortunate, said the stranger, with a sigh. Very, said Lowten, scribbling his name on the doorpost with his pen, and rubbing it out again with the feather. Will you leave a message for him? When do you think hell be back? inquired the stranger. Quite uncertain, replied Lowten, winking at Mr. Pickwick, as the stranger cast his eyes towards the ground. You dont think it would be of any use my waiting for him? said the stranger, looking wistfully into the office. Oh, no, Im sure it wouldnt, replied the clerk, moving a little more into the centre of the doorway. Hes certain not to be back this week, and its a chance whether he will be next; for when Perker once gets out of town, hes never in a hurry to come back again. Out of town! said Mr. Pickwick; dear me, how unfortunate! Dont go away, Mr. Pickwick, said Lowten, Ive got a letter for you. The stranger, seeming to hesitate, once more looked towards the ground, and the clerk winked slyly at Mr. PickwiCK, as if to intimate that some exquisite piece of humour was going forward, though what it was Mr. Pickwick could not for the life of him divine. Step in, Mr. Pickwick, said Lowten. Well, will you leave a message, Mr. Watty, or will you call again? Ask him to be so kind as to leave out word what has been done in my business, said the man; for Gods sake dont neglect it, Mr. Lowten. No, no; I wont forget it, replied the clerk. Walk in, Mr. Pickwick. Good-morning, Mr. Watty; its a fine day for walking, isnt it? Seeing that the stranger still lingered, he beckoned Sam Weller to follow his master in, and shut the door in his face. There never was such a pestering bankrupt as that since the world began, I do believe! said Lowten, throwing down his pen with the air of an injured man. His affairs havent been in Chancery quite four years yet, and Im d--d if he dont come worrying here twice a week. Step this way, Mr. Pickwick. Perker IS in, and hell see you, I know. Devilish cold, he added pettishly, standing at that door, wasting ones time with such seedy vagabonds! Having very vehemently stirred a particularly large fire with a particularly small poker, the clerk led the way to his principals private room, and announced Mr. Pickwick. Ah, my dear Sir, said little Mr. Perker, bustling up from his chair. Well, my dear sir, and whats the news about your matter, eh? Anything more about our friends in Freemans Court? Theyve not been sleeping, I know that. Ah, theyre very smart fellows; very smart, indeed. As the little man concluded, he took an emphatic pinch of snuff, as a tribute to the smartness of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg. They are great scoundrels, said Mr. Pickwick. Aye, aye, said the little man; thats a matter of opinion, you know, and we wont dispute about terms; because of course you cant be expected to view these subjects with a professional eye. Well, weve done everything thats necessary. I have retained Serjeant Snubbin. Is he a good man? inquired Mr. Pickwick. Good man! replied Perker; bless your heart and soul, my dear Sir, Serjeant Snubbin is at the very top of his profession. Gets treble the business of any man in court--engaged in every case. You neednt mention it abroad; but we say--we of the profession--that Serjeant Snubbin leads the court by the nose. The little man took another pinch of snuff as he made this communication, and nodded mysteriously to Mr. Pickwick. They have subpoenaed my three friends, said Mr. Pickwick. Ah! of course they would, replied Perker. Important witnesses; saw you in a delicate situation. But she fainted of her own accord, said Mr. Pickwick. She threw herself into my arms. Very likely, my dear Sir, replied Perker; very likely and very natural. Nothing more so, my dear Sir, nothing. But whos to prove it? They have subpoenaed my servant, too, said Mr. Pickwick, quitting

The Pickwick Papers page 206        The Pickwick Papers page 208