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The Pickwick Papers 280

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

different turnkeys, in order that they might know prisoners from visitors. Well, Sam, said Mr. Pickwick, then I wish the artists would come. This is rather a public place. They vont be long, Sir, I des-say, replied Sam. Theres a Dutch clock, sir. So I see, observed Mr. Pickwick. And a bird-cage, sir, says Sam. Veels vithin veels, a prison in a prison. Aint it, Sir? As Mr. Weller made this philosophical remark, Mr. Pickwick was aware that his sitting had commenced. The stout turnkey having been relieved from the lock, sat down, and looked at him carelessly, from time to time, while a long thin man who had relieved him, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and planting himself opposite, took a good long view of him. A third rather surly-looking gentleman, who had apparently been disturbed at his tea, for he was disposing of the last remnant of a crust and butter when he came in, stationed himself close to Mr. Pickwick; and, resting his hands on his hips, inspected him narrowly; while two others mixed with the group, and studied his features with most intent and thoughtful faces. Mr. Pickwick winced a good deal under the operation, and appeared to sit very uneasily in his chair; but he made no remark to anybody while it was being performed, not even to Sam, who reclined upon the back of the chair, reflecting, partly on the situation of his master, and partly on the great satisfaction it would have afforded him to make a fierce assault upon all the turnkeys there assembled, one after the other, if it were lawful and peaceable so to do. At length the likeness was completed, and Mr. Pickwick was informed that he might now proceed into the prison. Where am I to sleep to-night? inquired Mr. Pickwick. Why, I dont rightly know about to-night, replied the stout turnkey. Youll be chummed on somebody to-morrow, and then youll be all snug and comfortable. The first nights generally rather unsettled, but youll be set all squares to-morrow. After some discussion, it was discovered that one of the turnkeys had a bed to let, which Mr. Pickwick could have for that night. He gladly agreed to hire it. If youll come with me, Ill show it you at once, said the man. It aint a large un; but its an out-and-outer to sleep in. This way, sir. They passed through the inner gate, and descended a short flight of steps. The key was turned after them; and Mr. Pickwick found himself, for the first time in his life, within the walls of a debtors prison.



Mr. Tom Roker, the gentleman who had accompanied Mr. Pickwick into the prison, turned sharp round to the right when he got to the bottom of the little flight of steps, and led the way, through an iron gate which stood open, and up another short flight of steps, into a long narrow gallery, dirty and low, paved with stone, and very dimly lighted by a window at each remote end. This, said the gentleman, thrusting his hands into his pockets, and looking carelessly over his shoulder to Mr. Pickwick--this here is the hall flight. Oh, replied Mr. Pickwick, looking down a dark and filthy staircase, which appeared to lead to a range of damp and gloomy stone vaults, beneath the ground, and those, I suppose, are the little cellars where the prisoners keep their small quantities of coals. Unpleasant places to have to go down to; but very convenient, I dare say. Yes, I shouldnt wonder if they was convenient, replied the gentleman, seeing that a few people live there, pretty snug. Thats the Fair, that is. My friend, said Mr. Pickwick, you dont really mean to say that human beings live down in those wretched dungeons? Dont I? replied Mr. Roker, with indignant astonishment; why shouldnt I? Live!--live down there! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. Live down there! Yes, and die down there, too, very often! replied Mr. Roker; and what of that? Whos got to say anything agin it? Live down there! Yes, and a wery good place it is to live in, aint it? As Roker turned somewhat fiercely upon Mr. Pickwick in saying this, and moreover muttered in an excited fashion certain unpleasant invocations concerning his own eyes, limbs, and circulating fluids, the latter gentleman deemed it

The Pickwick Papers page 279        The Pickwick Papers page 281