Pickwick,' said Fogg.
'Ah! You are the defendant, Sir, in Bardell and Pickwick?' said Dodson.
'I am, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Well, sir,' said Dodson, 'and what do you propose?'
'Ah!' said Fogg, thrusting his hands into his trousers' pockets, and throwing himself back in his chair, 'what do you propose, Mr Pickwick?'
'Hush, Fogg,' said Dodson, 'let me hear what Mr. Pickwick has to say.'
'I came, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick, gazing placidly on the two partners, 'I came here, gentlemen, to express the surprise with which I received your letter of the other day, and to inquire what grounds of action you can have against me.'
'Grounds of--' Fogg had ejaculated this much, when he was stopped by Dodson.
'Mr. Fogg,' said Dodson, 'I am going to speak.' 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Dodson,' said Fogg.
'For the grounds of action, sir,' continued Dodson, with moral elevation in his air, 'you will consult your own conscience and your own feelings. We, Sir, we, are guided entirely by the statement of our client. That statement, Sir, may be true, or it may be false; it may be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true, and if it be credible, I do not hesitate to say, Sir, that our grounds of action, Sir, are strong, and not to be shaken. You may be an unfortunate man, Sir, or you may be a designing one; but if I were called upon, as a juryman upon my oath, Sir, to express an opinion of your conduct, Sir, I do not hesitate to assert that I should have but one opinion about it.' Here Dodson drew himself up, with an air of offended virtue, and looked at Fogg, who thrust his hands farther in his pockets, and nodding his head sagely, said, in a tone of the fullest concurrence, 'Most certainly.'
'Well, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, with considerable pain depicted in his countenance, 'you will permit me to assure you that I am a most unfortunate man, so far as this case is concerned.'
'I hope you are, Sir,' replied Dodson; 'I trust you may be, Sir. If you are really innocent of what is laid to your charge, you are more unfortunate than I had believed any man could possibly be. What do you say, Mr. Fogg?'
'I say precisely what you say,' replied Fogg, with a smile of incredulity.
'The writ, Sir, which commences the action,' continued Dodson, 'was issued regularly. Mr. Fogg, where is the PRAECIPE book?'
'Here it is,' said Fogg, handing over a square book, with a parchment cover.
'Here is the entry,' resumed Dodson. '"Middlesex, Capias MARTHA BARDELL, WIDOW, v. SAMUEL PICKWICK. Damages #1500. Dodson & Fogg for the plaintiff, Aug. 28, 1827." All regular, Sir; perfectly.' Dodson coughed and looked at Fogg, who said 'Perfectly,' also. And then they both looked at Mr. Pickwick.
'I am to understand, then,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that it really is your intention to proceed with this action?'
'Understand, sir!--that you certainly may,' replied Dodson, with something as near a smile as his importance would allow.
'And that the damages are actually laid at fifteen hundred pounds?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'To which understanding you may add my assurance, that if we could have prevailed upon our client, they would have been laid at treble the amount, sir,' replied Dodson. 'I believe Mrs. Bardell specially said, however,' observed Fogg, glancing at Dodson, 'that she would not compromise for a farthing less.'
'Unquestionably,' replied Dodson sternly. For the action was only just begun; and it wouldn't have done to let Mr. Pickwick compromise it then, even if he had been so disposed.
'As you offer no terms, sir,' said Dodson, displaying a slip of parchment in his right hand, and affectionately pressing a paper copy of it, on Mr. Pickwick with his left, 'I had better serve you with a copy of this writ, sir. Here is the original, sir.'
'Very well, gentlemen, very well,' said Mr. Pickwick, rising in person and wrath at the same time; 'you shall hear from my solicitor, gentlemen.'
'We shall be very happy to do so,' said Fogg, rubbing his hands.