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The Pickwick Papers 278







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The Pickwick Papers

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Hallo, what do you want? This last question was addressed to the lame man, who, unobserved by Mr. Pickwick, made one of the party. In reply to it, the lame man touched his hat again, with all imaginable politeness, and motioned towards Mr. Pickwick. No, no, said Perker, with a smile. We dont want you, my dear friend, we dont want you. I beg your pardon, sir, said the lame man. The gentleman took my card. I hope you will employ me, sir. The gentleman nodded to me. Ill be judged by the gentleman himself. You nodded to me, sir? Pooh, pooh, nonsense. You didnt nod to anybody, Pickwick? A mistake, a mistake, said Perker. The gentleman handed me his card, replied Mr. Pickwick, producing it from his waistcoat pocket. I accepted it, as the gentleman seemed to wish it--in fact I had some curiosity to look at it when I should be at leisure. I-- The little attorney burst into a loud laugh, and returning the card to the lame man, informing him it was all a mistake, whispered to Mr. Pickwick as the man turned away in dudgeon, that he was only a bail. A what! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. A bail, replied Perker. A bail! Yes, my dear sir--half a dozen of em here. Bail you to any amount, and only charge half a crown. Curious trade, isnt it? said Perker, regaling himself with a pinch of snuff. What! Am I to understand that these men earn a livelihood by waiting about here, to perjure themselves before the judges of the land, at the rate of half a crown a crime? exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite aghast at the disclosure. Why, I dont exactly know about perjury, my dear sir, replied the little gentleman. Harsh word, my dear sir, very harsh word indeed. Its a legal fiction, my dear sir, nothing more. Saying which, the attorney shrugged his shoulders, smiled, took a second pinch of snuff, and led the way into the office of the judges clerk. This was a room of specially dirty appearance, with a very low ceiling and old panelled walls; and so badly lighted, that although it was broad day outside, great tallow candles were burning on the desks. At one end, was a door leading to the judges private apartment, round which were congregated a crowd of attorneys and managing clerks, who were called in, in the order in which their respective appointments stood upon the file. Every time this door was opened to let a party out, the next party made a violent rush to get in; and, as in addition to the numerous dialogues which passed between the gentlemen who were waiting to see the judge, a variety of personal squabbles ensued between the greater part of those who had seen him, there was as much noise as could well be raised in an apartment of such confined dimensions. Nor were the conversations of these gentlemen the only sounds that broke upon the ear. Standing on a box behind a wooden bar at another end of the room was a clerk in spectacles who was taking the affidavits; large batches of which were, from time to time, carried into the private room by another clerk for the judges signature. There were a large number of attorneys clerks to be sworn, and it being a moral impossibility to swear them all at once, the struggles of these gentlemen to reach the clerk in spectacles, were like those of a crowd to get in at the pit door of a theatre when Gracious Majesty honours it with its presence. Another functionary, from time to time, exercised his lungs in calling over the names of those who had been sworn, for the purpose of restoring to them their affidavits after they had been signed by the judge, which gave rise to a few more scuffles; and all these things going on at the same time, occasioned as much bustle as the most active and excitable person could desire to behold. There were yet another class of persons--those who were waiting to attend summonses their employers had taken out, which it was optional to the attorney on the opposite side to attend or not--and whose business it was, from time to time, to cry out the opposite attorneys name; to make certain that he was not in attendance without their knowledge. For example. Leaning against the wall, close beside the seat Mr. Pickwick had taken,

The Pickwick Papers page 277        The Pickwick Papers page 279