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Chapter 26


CHAPTER XXVI
WHICH CONTAINS A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE PROGRESS
  OF THE ACTION OF BARDELL AGAINST PICKWICK


Having accomplished the main end and object of his journey, by the
exposure of Jingle, Mr. Pickwick resolved on immediately returning
to London, with the view of becoming acquainted with the proceedings
which had been taken against him, in the meantime, by Messrs.
Dodson and Fogg.  Acting upon this resolution with all the energy
and decision of his character, he mounted to the back seat of the
first coach which left Ipswich on the morning after the memorable
occurrences detailed at length in the two preceding chapters; and
accompanied by his three friends, and Mr. Samuel Weller, arrived in
the metropolis, in perfect health and safety, the same evening.

Here the friends, for a short time, separated.  Messrs. Tupman,
Winkle, and Snodgrass repaired to their several homes to make
such preparations as might be requisite for their forthcoming
visit to Dingley Dell; and Mr. Pickwick and Sam took up their
present abode in very good, old-fashioned, and comfortable
quarters, to wit, the George and Vulture Tavern and Hotel,
George Yard, Lombard Street.

Mr. Pickwick had dined, finished his second pint of particular
port, pulled his silk handkerchief over his head, put his feet on
the fender, and thrown himself back in an easy-chair, when the
entrance of Mr. Weller with his carpet-bag, aroused him from
his tranquil meditation.

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Sir,' said Mr. Weller.

'I have just been thinking, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that
having left a good many things at Mrs. Bardell's, in Goswell
Street, I ought to arrange for taking them away, before I leave
town again.'

'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'I could send them to Mr. Tupman's, for the present, Sam,'
continued Mr. Pickwick, 'but before we take them away, it is
necessary that they should be looked up, and put together.  I
wish you would step up to Goswell Street, Sam, and arrange
about it.'

'At once, Sir?' inquired Mr. Weller.

'At once,' replied Mr. Pickwick.  'And stay, Sam,' added Mr.
Pickwick, pulling out his purse, 'there is some rent to pay.  The
quarter is not due till Christmas, but you may pay it, and have
done with it.  A month's notice terminates my tenancy.  Here it is,
written out.  Give it, and tell Mrs. Bardell she may put a bill up,
as soon as she likes.'

'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'anythin' more, sir?'

'Nothing more, Sam.'

Mr. Weller stepped slowly to the door, as if he expected something
more; slowly opened it, slowly stepped out, and had slowly
closed it within a couple of inches, when Mr. Pickwick called out--

'Sam.'

'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Weller, stepping quickly back, and closing
the door behind him.
'I have no objection, Sam, to your endeavouring to ascertain
how Mrs. Bardell herself seems disposed towards me, and
whether it is really probable that this vile and groundless action
is to be carried to extremity.  I say I do not object to you doing
this, if you wish it, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

Sam gave a short nod of intelligence, and left the room.  Mr.
Pickwick drew the silk handkerchief once more over his head,
And composed himself for a nap.  Mr. Weller promptly walked
forth, to execute his commission.

It was nearly nine o'clock when he reached Goswell Street.  A
couple of candles were burning in the little front parlour, and a
couple of caps were reflected on the window-blind.  Mrs. Bardell
had got company.

Mr. Weller knocked at the door, and after a pretty long
interval--occupied by the party without, in whistling a tune, and
by the party within, in persuading a refractory flat candle to
allow itself to be lighted--a pair of small boots pattered over the
floor-cloth, and Master Bardell presented himself.

'Well, young townskip,' said Sam, 'how's mother?'

'She's pretty well,' replied Master Bardell, 'so am I.'

'Well, that's a mercy,' said Sam; 'tell her I want to speak to
her, will you, my hinfant fernomenon?'

Master Bardell, thus adjured, placed the refractory flat candle on
the bottom stair, and vanished into the front parlour with his message.

The two caps, reflected on the window-blind, were the respective
head-dresses of a couple of Mrs. Bardell's most particular
acquaintance, who had just stepped in, to have a quiet cup of tea,
and a little warm supper of a couple of sets of pettitoes and some
toasted cheese.  The cheese was simmering and browning away,
most delightfully, in a little Dutch oven before the fire; the
pettitoes were getting on deliciously in a little tin saucepan on the
hob; and Mrs. Bardell and her two friends were getting on very
well, also, in a little quiet conversation about and concerning all
their particular friends and acquaintance; when Master Bardell
came back from answering the door, and delivered the message
intrusted to him by Mr. Samuel Weller.

'Mr. Pickwick's servant!' said Mrs. Bardell, turning pale.

'Bless my soul!' said Mrs. Cluppins.

'Well, I raly would not ha' believed it, unless I had ha' happened
to ha' been here!' said Mrs. Sanders.

Mrs. Cluppins was a little, brisk, busy-looking woman; Mrs.
Sanders was a big, fat, heavy-faced personage; and the two were
the company.

Mrs. Bardell felt it proper to be agitated; and as none of the
three exactly knew whether under existing circumstances, any
communication, otherwise than through Dodson & Fogg, ought
to be held with Mr. Pickwick's servant, they were all rather taken
by surprise.  In this state of indecision, obviously the first thing
to be done, was to thump the boy for finding Mr. Weller at the
door.  So his mother thumped him, and he cried melodiously.

'Hold your noise--do--you naughty creetur!' said Mrs. Bardell.

'Yes; don't worrit your poor mother,' said Mrs. Sanders.

'She's quite enough to worrit her, as it is, without you, Tommy,'
said Mrs. Cluppins, with sympathising resignation.

'Ah! worse luck, poor lamb!' said Mrs. Sanders.
At all which moral reflections, Master Bardell howled the louder.

'Now, what shall I do?' said Mrs. Bardell to Mrs. Cluppins.

'I think you ought to see him,' replied Mrs. Cluppins.  'But on
no account without a witness.'

'I think two witnesses would be more lawful,' said Mrs.
Sanders, who, like the other friend, was bursting with curiosity.

'Perhaps he'd better come in here,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'To be sure,' replied Mrs. Cluppins, eagerly catching at the
idea; 'walk in, young man; and shut the street door first, please.'

Mr. Weller immediately took the hint; and presenting himself
in the parlour, explained his business to Mrs. Bardell thus--

'Wery sorry to 'casion any personal inconwenience, ma'am, as
the housebreaker said to the old lady when he put her on the fire;
but as me and my governor 's only jest come to town, and is jest
going away agin, it can't be helped, you see.'

'Of course, the young man can't help the faults of his master,' said
Mrs. Cluppins, much struck by Mr. Weller's appearance and conversation.

'Certainly not,' chimed in Mrs. Sanders, who, from certain
wistful glances at the little tin saucepan, seemed to be engaged in
a mental calculation of the probable extent of the pettitoes, in the
event of Sam's being asked to stop to supper.

'So all I've come about, is jest this here,' said Sam, disregarding
the interruption; 'first, to give my governor's notice--there it is.
Secondly, to pay the rent--here it is.  Thirdly, to say as all his
things is to be put together, and give to anybody as we sends for
'em.  Fourthly, that you may let the place as soon as you like--
and that's all.'

'Whatever has happened,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'I always have
said, and always will say, that in every respect but one, Mr.
Pickwick has always behaved himself like a perfect gentleman.
His money always as good as the bank--always.'

As Mrs. Bardell said this, she applied her handkerchief to her
eyes, and went out of the room to get the receipt.

Sam well knew that he had only to remain quiet, and the
women were sure to talk; so he looked alternately at the tin
saucepan, the toasted cheese, the wall, and the ceiling, in
profound silence.

'Poor dear!' said Mrs. Cluppins.

'Ah, poor thing!' replied Mrs. Sanders.
Sam said nothing.  He saw they were coming to the subject.

'I raly cannot contain myself,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'when I
think of such perjury.  I don't wish to say anything to make you
uncomfortable, young man, but your master's an old brute, and
I wish I had him here to tell him so.'
'I wish you had,' said Sam.

'To see how dreadful she takes on, going moping about, and
taking no pleasure in nothing, except when her friends comes in,
out of charity, to sit with her, and make her comfortable,'
resumed Mrs. Cluppins, glancing at the tin saucepan and the
Dutch oven, 'it's shocking!'

'Barbareous,' said Mrs. Sanders.

'And your master, young man!  A gentleman with money, as
could never feel the expense of a wife, no more than nothing,'
continued Mrs. Cluppins, with great volubility; 'why there ain't
the faintest shade of an excuse for his behaviour!  Why don't he
marry her?'

'Ah,' said Sam, 'to be sure; that's the question.'

'Question, indeed,' retorted Mrs. Cluppins, 'she'd question
him, if she'd my spirit.  Hows'ever, there is law for us women,
mis'rable creeturs as they'd make us, if they could; and that your
master will find out, young man, to his cost, afore he's six
months older.'

At this consolatory reflection, Mrs. Cluppins bridled up, and
smiled at Mrs. Sanders, who smiled back again.

'The action's going on, and no mistake,' thought Sam, as
Mrs. Bardell re-entered with the receipt.

'Here's the receipt, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'and here's the
change, and I hope you'll take a little drop of something to keep
the cold out, if it's only for old acquaintance' sake, Mr. Weller.'

Sam saw the advantage he should gain, and at once acquiesced;
whereupon Mrs. Bardell produced, from a small closet, a black
bottle and a wine-glass; and so great was her abstraction, in her
deep mental affliction, that, after filling Mr. Weller's glass, she
brought out three more wine-glasses, and filled them too.

'Lauk, Mrs. Bardell,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'see what you've been
and done!'

'Well, that is a good one!' ejaculated Mrs. Sanders.

'Ah, my poor head!' said Mrs. Bardell, with a faint smile.

Sam understood all this, of course, so he said at once, that he
never could drink before supper, unless a lady drank with him.
A great deal of laughter ensued, and Mrs. Sanders volunteered to
humour him, so she took a slight sip out of her glass.  Then Sam
said it must go all round, so they all took a slight sip.  Then little
Mrs. Cluppins proposed as a toast, 'Success to Bardell agin
Pickwick'; and then the ladies emptied their glasses in honour of
the sentiment, and got very talkative directly.

'I suppose you've heard what's going forward, Mr. Weller?'
said Mrs. Bardell.

'I've heerd somethin' on it,' replied Sam.

'It's a terrible thing to be dragged before the public, in that
way, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell; 'but I see now, that it's the
only thing I ought to do, and my lawyers, Mr. Dodson and Fogg,
tell me that, with the evidence as we shall call, we must succeed.
I don't know what I should do, Mr. Weller, if I didn't.'

The mere idea of Mrs. Bardell's failing in her action, affected
Mrs. Sanders so deeply, that she was under the necessity of
refilling and re-emptying her glass immediately; feeling, as she
said afterwards, that if she hadn't had the presence of mind to do
so, she must have dropped.

'Ven is it expected to come on?' inquired Sam.

'Either in February or March,' replied Mrs. Bardell.

'What a number of witnesses there'll be, won't there,?' said
Mrs. Cluppins.

'Ah! won't there!' replied Mrs. Sanders.

'And won't Mr. Dodson and Fogg be wild if the plaintiff shouldn't
get it?' added Mrs. Cluppins, 'when they do it all on speculation!'

'Ah! won't they!' said Mrs. Sanders.

'But the plaintiff must get it,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins.

'I hope so,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'Oh, there can't be any doubt about it,' rejoined Mrs. Sanders.

'Vell,' said Sam, rising and setting down his glass, 'all I can say
is, that I vish you MAY get it.'

'Thank'ee, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell fervently.

'And of them Dodson and Foggs, as does these sort o' things
on spec,' continued Mr. Weller, 'as vell as for the other kind and
gen'rous people o' the same purfession, as sets people by the ears,
free gratis for nothin', and sets their clerks to work to find out
little disputes among their neighbours and acquaintances as
vants settlin' by means of lawsuits--all I can say o' them is, that
I vish they had the reward I'd give 'em.'

'Ah, I wish they had the reward that every kind and generous
heart would be inclined to bestow upon them!' said the gratified
Mrs. Bardell.

'Amen to that,' replied Sam, 'and a fat and happy liven' they'd
get out of it!  Wish you good-night, ladies.'

To the great relief of Mrs. Sanders, Sam was allowed to depart
without any reference, on the part of the hostess, to the pettitoes
and toasted cheese; to which the ladies, with such juvenile
assistance as Master Bardell could afford, soon afterwards
rendered the amplest justice--indeed they wholly vanished before
their strenuous exertions.

Mr. Weller wended his way back to the George and Vulture,
and faithfully recounted to his master, such indications of the
sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg, as he had contrived to pick up
in his visit to Mrs. Bardell's.  An interview with Mr. Perker, next
day, more than confirmed Mr. Weller's statement; and Mr.
Pickwick was fain to prepare for his Christmas visit to Dingley
Dell, with the pleasant anticipation that some two or three
months afterwards, an action brought against him for damages
sustained by reason of a breach of promise of marriage, would
be publicly tried in the Court of Common Pleas; the plaintiff
having all the advantages derivable, not only from the force of
circumstances, but from the sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg
to boot.


Charles Dickens