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The Pickwick Papers 323







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form the subject of our conversation. I would rather that the subject should be never mentioned between us, Perker, interposed Mr. Pickwick hastily. Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir, said the little man, untying the bundle, and glancing eagerly at Mr. Pickwick out of the corners of his eyes. It must be mentioned. I have come here on purpose. Now, are you ready to hear what I have to say, my dear Sir? No hurry; if you are not, I can wait. I have this mornings paper here. Your time shall be mine. There! Hereupon, the little man threw one leg over the other, and made a show of beginning to read with great composure and application. Well, well, said Mr. Pickwick, with a sigh, but softening into a smile at the same time. Say what you have to say; its the old story, I suppose? With a difference, my dear Sir; with a difference, rejoined Perker, deliberately folding up the paper and putting it into his pocket again. Mrs. Bardell, the plaintiff in the action, is within these walls, Sir. I know it, was Mr. Pickwicks reply, Very good, retorted Perker. And you know how she comes here, I suppose; I mean on what grounds, and at whose suit? Yes; at least I have heard Sams account of the matter, said Mr. Pickwick, with affected carelessness. Sams account of the matter, replied Perker, is, I will venture to say, a perfectly correct one. Well now, my dear Sir, the first question I have to ask, is, whether this woman is to remain here? To remain here! echoed Mr. Pickwick. To remain here, my dear Sir, rejoined Perker, leaning back in his chair and looking steadily at his client. How can you ask me? said that gentleman. It rests with Dodson and Fogg; you know that very well. I know nothing of the kind, retorted Perker firmly. It does NOT rest with Dodson and Fogg; you know the men, my dear Sir, as well as I do. It rests solely, wholly, and entirely with you. With me! ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, rising nervously from his chair, and reseating himself directly afterwards. The little man gave a double-knock on the lid of his snuff-box, opened it, took a great pinch, shut it up again, and repeated the words, With you. I say, my dear Sir, resumed the little man, who seemed to gather confidence from the snuff--I say, that her speedy liberation or perpetual imprisonment rests with you, and with you alone. Hear me out, my dear Sir, if you please, and do not be so very energetic, for it will only put you into a perspiration and do no good whatever. I say, continued Perker, checking off each position on a different finger, as he laid it down--I say that nobody but you can rescue her from this den of wretchedness; and that you can only do that, by paying the costs of this suit-- both of plaintive and defendant--into the hands of these Freeman Court sharks. Now pray be quiet, my dear sir. Mr. Pickwick, whose face had been undergoing most surprising changes during this speech, and was evidently on the verge of a strong burst of indignation, calmed his wrath as well as he could. Perker, strengthening his argumentative powers with another pinch of snuff, proceeded-- I have seen the woman, this morning. By paying the costs, you can obtain a full release and discharge from the damages; and further--this I know is a far greater object of consideration with you, my dear sir--a voluntary statement, under her hand, in the form of a letter to me, that this business was, from the very first, fomented, and encouraged, and brought about, by these men, Dodson and Fogg; that she deeply regrets ever having been the instrument of annoyance or injury to you; and that she entreats me to intercede with you, and implore your pardon. If I pay her costs for her, said Mr. Pickwick indignantly. A valuable document, indeed! No "if" in the case, my dear Sir, said Perker triumphantly. There is the very letter I speak of. Brought to my office by another woman at nine oclock this morning, before I had set foot in this place, or held any communication with Mrs. Bardell, upon my honour. Selecting the letter from the bundle, the little lawyer laid it at Mr. Pickwicks elbow, and took snuff for two consecutive minutes, without winking. Is this all you have to say to me? inquired Mr.

The Pickwick Papers page 322        The Pickwick Papers page 324