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Summary Chapter 39

When their Bath sojourn ends, the Pickwickians return to London. Three days have passed since their arrival, when Sam notices a peculiar vehicle roll into the George Yard of the George and Vulture. Realizing what the vehicle is, Sam bars the way so that the vehicle’s principal passenger, who is dressed in a gorgeous manner, is prevented from entering the George and Vulture. A shoving match ensues, compelling the principal passenger to summon the aid of Smouch. Smouch, the shabbily dressed assistant of the gorgeously dressed principal passenger, manages to push and wrestle with Sam long enough to allow the principal passenger to slip through.

Presently, the principal passenger, who is a sheriff deputy of London named Namby, makes his way to Mr. Pickwick’s room, wakes Mr. Pickwick, and serves him notice of his arrest for failing to pay Mrs. Bardell. Sam, who has followed Namby, takes the liberty of knocking Namby’s hat off, which draws Mr. Pickwick’s anger. Nonetheless, Sam refuses to obey Mr. Pickwick who orders Sam to have Namby’s hat politely returned.

By and by, Mr. Pickwick is escorted to Namby’s office at Coleman Street by Smouch. There, Mr. Pickwick, who has commissioned Sam to fetch Mr. Perker, finds himself in the company of two unsavory characters who get their kicks from the misfortunes of a fellow inmate. Mr. Pickwick requests to be moved to another room. His request is granted. Presently, Mr. Pickwick is having breakfast when Sam returns with Mr. Perker.

Mr. Perker advises Mr. Pickwick to pay Mrs. Bardell and to have the matter settled there and then, but Mr. Pickwick makes it clear that he will do no such thing. Indeed, he asks Mr. Perker to remove him—Mr. Pickwick—to debtor’s prison.

Consequently, accompanied by Mr. Perker, Mr. Pickwick goes to court to obtain habeas corpus. At court, Mr. Pickwick is accosted by a lame man whom Mr. Pickwick is aghast to learn is a bail bondsman who will free Mr. Pickwick or anyone else destined for prison for a fee. By and by, Mr. Pickwick obtains habeas corpus and then, accompanied by the bailiff, Mr. Pickwick goes to the Fleet debtor’s prison.

Before Mr. Pickwick is officially admitted as an inmate of Fleet, he must submit himself to be scrutinized by the various Fleet turnkeys for the purpose of firmly implanting Mr. Pickwick’s image in their minds so as to distinguish him as an inmate and not a guest. Mr. Pickwick suffers himself to be scrutinized. When the unpleasantness ends, he asks to be taken to his room and bed only to be told that it’ll be a day before accommodations can be made for him. (Mr. Pickwick will have to spend a night without a room or bed.) Fortunately for Mr. Pickwick, one of the turnkeys has a spare bed to let.

Charles Dickens