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The Pickwick Papers 315







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health becomes, and think about it meanwhile. Make the statement out for me when you feel yourself equal to the task, and I will discuss the subject with you when I have considered it. Now, go to your room. You are tired, and not strong enough to be out long. Mr. Alfred Jingle, without one spark of his old animation-- with nothing even of the dismal gaiety which he had assumed when Mr. Pickwick first stumbled on him in his misery--bowed low without speaking, and, motioning to Job not to follow him just yet, crept slowly away. Curious scene this, is it not, Sam? said Mr. Pickwick, looking good-humouredly round. Wery much so, Sir, replied Sam. Wonders ull never cease, added Sam, speaking to himself. Im wery much mistaken if that ,ere Jingle wornt a-doin somethin in the water-cart way! The area formed by the wall in that part of the Fleet in which Mr. Pickwick stood was just wide enough to make a good racket-court; one side being formed, of course, by the wall itself, and the other by that portion of the prison which looked (or rather would have looked, but for the wall) towards St. Pauls Cathedral. Sauntering or sitting about, in every possible attitude of listless idleness, were a great number of debtors, the major part of whom were waiting in prison until their day of going up before the Insolvent Court should arrive; while others had been remanded for various terms, which they were idling away as they best could. Some were shabby, some were smart, many dirty, a few clean; but there they all lounged, and loitered, and slunk about with as little spirit or purpose as the beasts in a menagerie. Lolling from the windows which commanded a view of this promenade were a number of persons, some in noisy conversation with their acquaintance below, others playing at ball with some adventurous throwers outside, others looking on at the racket- players, or watching the boys as they cried the game. Dirty, slipshod women passed and repassed, on their way to the cooking- house in one corner of the yard; children screamed, and fought, and played together, in another; the tumbling of the skittles, and the shouts of the players, mingled perpetually with these and a hundred other sounds; and all was noise and tumult--save in a little miserable shed a few yards off, where lay, all quiet and ghastly, the body of the Chancery prisoner who had died the night before, awaiting the mockery of an inquest. The body! It is the lawyers term for the restless, whirling mass of cares and anxieties, affections, hopes, and griefs, that make up the living man. The law had his body; and there it lay, clothed in grave- clothes, an awful witness to its tender mercy. Would you like to see a whistling-shop, Sir? inquired Job Trotter. What do you mean? was Mr. Pickwicks counter inquiry. A vistlin shop, Sir, interposed Mr. Weller. What is that, Sam?--A bird-fanciers? inquired Mr. Pickwick. Bless your heart, no, Sir, replied Job; a whistling-shop, Sir, is where they sell spirits. Mr. Job Trotter briefly explained here, that all persons, being prohibited under heavy penalties from conveying spirits into debtors prisons, and such commodities being highly prized by the ladies and gentlemen confined therein, it had occurred to some speculative turnkey to connive, for certain lucrative considerations, at two or three prisoners retailing the favourite article of gin, for their own profit and advantage. This plan, you see, Sir, has been gradually introduced into all the prisons for debt, said Mr. Trotter. And it has this wery great advantage, said Sam, that the turnkeys takes wery good care to seize hold o evrybody but them as pays em, that attempts the willainy, and wen it gets in the papers theyre applauded for their wigilance; so it cuts two ways--frightens other people from the trade, and elewates their own characters. Exactly so, Mr. Weller, observed Job. Well, but are these rooms never searched to ascertain whether any spirits are concealed in them? said Mr. Pickwick. Certnly they are, Sir, replied Sam; but the turnkeys knows beforehand, and gives the word to the wistlers, and you may wistle for it wen you go to look. By this time, Job had tapped at a door, which was opened by a gentleman with an uncombed head, who bolted it after them when they had walked in, and grinned; upon which Job grinned, and Sam also; whereupon Mr. Pickwick, thinking it might be expected of him, kept on

The Pickwick Papers page 314        The Pickwick Papers page 316