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Summary Chapter 43

Sam Weller is mum on the point as to who he is in debt, but he does tell Mr. Pickwick about the sum of money for which he has been imprisoned, which isn’t much. Subsequently, arguing that he will do more good outside the prison gates than inside, Mr. Pickwick urges Sam to have his debt paid off. However, Sam, citing the rascally character of the man to who he is in debt, avows not to pay, and in defense of his stance tells Mr. Pickwick an anecdote about a government clerk who chooses to die than compromise on his principles. (Though his doctor has warned him that eating croutons will be death of him, the government clerk quadruples his crouton intake and dies.)

By and by, Sam manages to secure his lodgings: He is to share a room with a cobbler who is wont to smoke a pipe, in a carefree fashion, before going to sleep. Thus, Sam settles in for the night when the cobblers’ habit of making his bed under a table, not to mention his carefree pipe smoking, piques Sam’s curiosity. The cobbler replies that as he was used to sleeping in four poster bed before being imprisoned, he makes his bed under the table to give him the illusion of sleeping in a four poster bed. Intrigued, Sam asks about the cobbler’s reason for being imprisoned.

As it turns out, the story behind the cobbler’s imprisonment is a complicated one. It involves the cobbler marrying a relation of his wealthy employer, the cobbler inheriting the greater part of his employers’ wealth, and the employer’s nephews and nieces objecting to their uncle’s last will and testament. Indeed, the cobbler’s story is so complicated and involved that when the story is concluded and the cobbler turns to Sam, Sam has fallen asleep.

The next morning, Mr. Pickwick is having breakfast when Mr. Smangle interrupts to tell Mr. Pickwick about Mr. Pickwick’s importune visitors who are apparently disturbing all and every inmate as they are endeavoring to find Mr. Pickwick’s room the location of which they are ignorant of. When Mr. Pickwick avers that they are indeed his visitors, Mr. Smangle offers to personally escort them to Mr. Pickwick’s room but not before asking Mr. Pickwick for a loan. Ever the gentleman, Mr. Pickwick obliges Mr. Smangle.

By and by, Mr. Smangle brings the Pickwickians to Mr. Pickwick’s room. As Mr. Pickwick exchanges hearty greetings with his fellow Pickwickians, Sam enters the room with Mr. Pickwick’s newly polished shoes and newly brushed gaiters. When Mr. Pickwick informs the Pickwickians that Sam has gotten himself voluntarily imprisoned for the sake of serving Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Winkle exhibits a vehemence of shock that registers a hidden concern. Presently, the hidden concern is somewhat disclosed, as Mr. Winkle explains that he had meant to leave town on private business accompanied by Sam. Though Sam seems to know what’s what, he keeps it confidential between him and Mr. Winkle.

Consequently, ever the gentleman, Mr. Pickwick steers the conversation to other matters. A lavish meal, albeit a meal prepared in the prison kitchen, is shared by the friends.

As the Pickwickians part, Mr. Winkle behaves oddly. Reminding Mr. Pickwick how much he values Mr. Pickwick’s friendship, Mr. Winkle is unable to let go of Mr. Pickwick’s hands. They eventually part with Mr. Pickwick none the wiser with regards Mr. Winkle’s odd behavior.

Presently, the turnkey Mr. Roker enters with a new pillow for Mr. Pickwick. Grateful, Mr. Pickwick offers Mr. Roker a glass of wine. Mr. Roker accepts. As Mr. Roker drinks, he tells Mr. Pickwick of some bad news. According to the doctor, the Chancery prisoner, who is letting Mr. Pickwick his room, will soon die. (He has had tuberculosis for some time and his time has come.) Horrified, Mr. Pickwick begs to be taken to the Chancery prisoner who is currently laid up in the prison’s infirmary.

At the infirmary, Mr. Pickwick offers what solace he can to the Chancery prisoner who laments his lot in life before losing consciousness. He seems to be asleep, but, alas, he is dead.

Charles Dickens