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The Pickwick Papers 279







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The Pickwick Papers

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was an office-lad of fourteen, with a tenor voice; near him a common-law clerk with a bass one. A clerk hurried in with a bundle of papers, and stared about him. Sniggle and Blink, cried the tenor. Porkin and Snob, growled the bass. Stumpy and Deacon, said the new-comer. Nobody answered; the next man who came in, was bailed by the whole three; and he in his turn shouted for another firm; and then somebody else roared in a loud voice for another; and so forth. All this time, the man in the spectacles was hard at work, swearing the clerks; the oath being invariably administered, without any effort at punctuation, and usually in the following terms:-- Take the book in your right hand this is your name and hand- writing you swear that the contents of this your affidavit are true so help you God a shilling you must get change I havent got it. Well, Sam, said Mr. Pickwick, I suppose they are getting the HABEAS-CORPUS ready? Yes, said Sam, and I vish theyd bring out the have-his- carcase. Its wery unpleasant keepin us vaitin here. Id ha got half a dozen have-his-carcases ready, packd up and all, by this time. What sort of cumbrous and unmanageable machine, Sam Weller imagined a habeas-corpus to be, does not appear; for Perker, at that moment, walked up and took Mr. Pickwick away. The usual forms having been gone through, the body of Samuel Pickwick was soon afterwards confided to the custody of the tipstaff, to be by him taken to the warden of the Fleet Prison, and there detained until the amount of the damages and costs in the action of Bardell against Pickwick was fully paid and satisfied. And that, said Mr. Pickwick, laughing, will be a very long time. Sam, call another hackney-coach. Perker, my dear friend, good-bye. I shall go with you, and see you safe there, said Perker. Indeed, replied Mr. Pickwick, I would rather go without any other attendant than Sam. As soon as I get settled, I will write and let you know, and I shall expect you immediately. Until then, good-bye. As Mr. Pickwick said this, he got into the coach which had by this time arrived, followed by the tipstaff. Sam having stationed himself on the box, it rolled away. A most extraordinary man that! said Perker, as he stopped to pull on his gloves. What a bankrupt hed make, Sir, observed Mr. Lowten, who was standing near. How he would bother the commissioners! Hed set em at defiance if they talked of committing him, Sir. The attorney did not appear very much delighted with his clerks professional estimate of Mr. Pickwicks character, for he walked away without deigning any reply. The hackney-coach jolted along Fleet Street, as hackney- coaches usually do. The horses went better, the driver said, when they had anything before them (they must have gone at a most extraordinary pace when there was nothing), and so the vehicle kept behind a cart; when the cart stopped, it stopped; and when the cart went on again, it did the same. Mr. Pickwick sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window. Time performs wonders. By the powerful old gentlemans aid, even a hackney-coach gets over half a mile of ground. They stopped at length, and Mr. Pickwick alighted at the gate of the Fleet. The tipstaff, just looking over his shoulder to see that his charge was following close at his heels, preceded Mr. Pickwick into the prison; turning to the left, after they had entered, they passed through an open door into a lobby, from which a heavy gate, opposite to that by which they had entered, and which was guarded by a stout turnkey with the key in his hand, led at once into the interior of the prison. Here they stopped, while the tipstaff delivered his papers; and here Mr. Pickwick was apprised that he would remain, until he had undergone the ceremony, known to the initiated as sitting for your portrait. Sitting for my portrait? said Mr. Pickwick. Having your likeness taken, sir, replied the stout turnkey. Were capital hands at likenesses here. Take em in no time, and always exact. Walk in, sir, and make yourself at home. Mr. Pickwick complied with the invitation, and sat himself down; when Mr. Weller, who stationed himself at the back of the chair, whispered that the sitting was merely another term for undergoing an inspection by the

The Pickwick Papers page 278        The Pickwick Papers page 280