A visible effect was produced immediately, several jurymen beginning to take voluminous notes with the utmost eagerness.
'You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen,' continued Serjeant Buzfuz, well knowing that, from the learned friend alluded to, the gentlemen of the jury had heard just nothing at all--'you have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen, that this is an action for a breach of promise of marriage, in which the damages are laid at #1,500. But you have not heard from my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not come within my learned friend's province to tell you, what are the facts and circumstances of the case. Those facts and circumstances, gentlemen, you shall hear detailed by me, and proved by the unimpeachable female whom I will place in that box before you.'
Here, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, with a tremendous emphasis on the word 'box,' smote his table with a mighty sound, and glanced at Dodson and Fogg, who nodded admiration of the Serjeant, and indignant defiance of the defendant.
'The plaintiff, gentlemen,' continued Serjeant Buzfuz, in a soft and melancholy voice, 'the plaintiff is a widow; yes, gentlemen, a widow. The late Mr. Bardell, after enjoying, for many years, the esteem and confidence of his sovereign, as one of the guardians of his royal revenues, glided almost imperceptibly from the world, to seek elsewhere for that repose and peace which a custom-house can never afford.' At this pathetic description of the decease of Mr. Bardell, who had been knocked on the head with a quart-pot in a public-house cellar, the learned serjeant's voice faltered, and he proceeded, with emotion--
'Some time before his death, he had stamped his likeness upon a little boy. With this little boy, the only pledge of her departed exciseman, Mrs. Bardell shrank from the world, and courted the retirement and tranquillity of Goswell Street; and here she placed in her front parlour window a written placard, bearing this inscription--"Apartments furnished for a single gentleman. Inquire within."' Here Serjeant Buzfuz paused, while several gentlemen of the jury took a note of the document.
'There is no date to that, is there?' inquired a juror. 'There is no date, gentlemen,' replied Serjeant Buzfuz; 'but I am instructed to say that it was put in the plaintiff's parlour window just this time three years. I entreat the attention of the jury to the wording of this document--"Apartments furnished for a single gentleman"! Mrs. Bardell's opinions of the opposite sex, gentlemen, were derived from a long contemplation of the inestimable qualities of her lost husband. She had no fear, she had no distrust, she had no suspicion; all was confidence and reliance. "Mr. Bardell," said the widow--"Mr. Bardell was a man of honour, Mr. Bardell was a man of his word, Mr. Bardell was no deceiver, Mr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself; to single gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, for comfort, and for consolation; in single gentlemen I shall perpetually see something to remind me of what Mr. Bardell was when he first won my young and untried affections; to a single gentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let." Actuated by this beautiful and touching impulse (among the best impulses of our imperfect nature, gentlemen), the lonely and desolate widow dried her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boy to her maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour window. Did it remain there long? No. The serpent was on the watch, the train was laid, the mine was preparing, the sapper and miner was at work. Before the bill had been in the parlour window three days--three days, gentlemen--a being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell's house. He inquired within--he took the lodgings; and on the very next day he entered into possession of them. This man was Pickwick-- Pickwick, the defendant.'
Serjeant Buzfuz, who had proceeded with such volubility that his face was perfectly crimson, here paused for breath.