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forty-eight. The plaint in which I was
involved, was the two hundred and fifty-
two thousand six hundred and forty-eighth,
and the county court about to be holden,
where I was summoned to appear, had
not, in all probability, been in existence
ten years! Verily, aggressive law travels
with winged feet. Next, it set forth the
debt or claim, and the Cost of Plaint,—
no great addition, it is true, but harassing to
behold,—and at the foot of the document
was this Nota bene: "If you owe the money
and will consent to a judgment, you will save
the hearing fee. SEE BACK." With a
trembling hand I turned the paper, and
there, in an instant, I found myself struggling
with half-a-dozen contradictory paragraphs,
which might as well have been so many
Sepoys. I had already been told that by
consenting to judgment, I should save the
whole hearing fee, and here it was intimated
in terms equally precise, that, if I signed and
delivered a confession to the registrar of the
court, "five clear days before the day of hearing,"
only half that amount would be saved.
Which was to be believed? Front or back?

I made a maniacal pun. FRONTI nulla
fides; but it did not help me out of the
difficulty. I read a little further: "You
may deliver your confession at any time
before the case is called on, subject to the
payment of any further costs which your
delay may have caused the plaintiff to incur."
Ay, there was the rub! How did I know
what Grinder might think fit to allege when
he had turned round upon Mrs. Jones in the
manner already described? Any further
costs. Why, that might swallow up my
estate! Such things have happened. People
have been known to spend their All in costs.
This frightful doom was to be mine, all
because my wife chose to keepno, not
to keep, to have a dog! Was there nothing
to console me in the midst of my
misfortune? The last paragraph, perhaps.
It began thus: "If you intend to rely on
a Set-off, Infancy, Coverture, A Statute of
Lunacy, or A Discharge under a Bankruptcy
or an Insolvent Act as a defence." What a
bitter mockery. Did I, the literary Mr.
Jonesto distinguish me from the others
did I exercise any base mechanical calling,
like that of Grinder? Could I requite him
work for work? Cooperage for ironmongering?
A set-off, indeed! Infancy! With
what face could I, whose hairthe little that
remainsis grey, go into court, and call
myself an infant? Coverture! For the
sake of Mrs. Jones, I will not be tempted to
say anything about that. A statute of
lunacy! That might very well be, before I
had done reading the paper; I was well-nigh
mad already. Bankruptcy and insolvency
yes, these were honourable pleas by one
who never had owed a sixpence since the
days of his nonage; when, to tell the truth, it
would have taken a good many sixpences to
have satisfied his bootmaker or his tailor.
I felt sick at heart, and could neither read
nor reason further.

Luckily I was spared the necessity of doing
either; for, at this juncture a message was
brought in to say that Doublethong, the
jobmaster, wished to speak to me about the
hiring of a brougham for an excursion. As
he was a neighbour of Grinder, I opened my
mind to him on the subject. To my excessive
astonishment he burst out laughing.

"Excuse me, sir," he said, as soon as the
paroxysm was over; "but that's what
Grinder does to all his customers. He
summonses 'em all. Bill one day, county
court the next."

"If that's his way of doing business," I
replied warmly, "he'll very soon be without
any customers to serve."

"Well, I believe, you're pretty nearly
right there, sir," replied Doublethong; "but,"
he continued, guessing what I was about to
say, "don't give yourself no trouble about
this affair. I'm more used to these things
nor you, sir. I'll go down to the court,
and make it all straight."

"But," said I, anxiously, "the five clear days,
the declaration, the judgment, the confession,
the costs of hearing, the statute of lunacy?"

"All gammon, sir. Don't you believe a
word on it. People has their fancies.
Grinder's fancy is law. He'd rather lose a five
pound in the County Court than win ten out
of it. Leave him to me, sir, leave him to me."

I did so, and, except Doublethong's
reimbursement, this was all I ever heard of MY
FIRST SUMMONS.

MR. CHARLES DICKENS
WILL READ AT ST. MARTIN'S HALL:
On THURSDAY EVENING, JULY 8th, at Eight, his CHIMES.
On WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, JULY 14th, at Three (for
the last time), his CHRISTMAS CAROL.
On THURSDAY EVENING, JULY 15th, at Eight (last time).
The POOR TRAVELLER, BOOTS AT THE HOLLY-TREE INN,
and MRS. GAMP.
On THURSDAY EVENING, JULY 22nd, at Eight (last
time), The STORY OF LITTLE DOMBEY.
Each Reading will last two hours.
PLACES FOH EACH READING:—Stalls (numbered and
reserved), Five Shillings; Area and Galleries, Half-a-
crown; Unreserved Seats, One Shilling. Tickets to be
had at Messrs. Chapman and Hall's, Publishers, 193,
Piccadilly; and at St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre.

Now ready, price Five Shillings and Sixpence,
bound in cloth,
THE SEVENTEENTH VOLUME
OF
HOUSEHOLD WORDS.
Containing the Numbers issued between the Nineteenth
of December last year, and the Twelfth of June in
the present year.
To be had of all Booksellers.

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