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Bleak House

19. Moving On
It is the long vacation in the regions of Chancery Lane. The good ships Law and Equity,
those teak-built, copper-bottomed, iron- fastened, brazen-faced, and not by any means
fast-sailing clippers are laid up in ordinary. The Flying Dutchman, with a crew of ghostly
clients imploring all whom they may encounter to peruse their papers, has drifted, for
the time being, heaven knows where. The courts are all shut up; the public offices lie in
a hot sleep. Westminster Hall itself is a shady solitude where nightingales might sing,
and a tenderer class of suitors than is usually found there, walk.
The Temple, Chancery Lane, Serjeants' Inn, and Lincoln's Inn even unto the Fields are
like tidal harbours at low water, where stranded proceedings, offices at anchor, idle
clerks lounging on lop-sided stools that will not recover their perpendicular until the
current of Term sets in, lie high and dry upon the ooze of the long vacation. Outer doors
of chambers are shut up by the score, messages and parcels are to be left at the
Porter's Lodge by the bushel. A crop of grass would grow in the chinks of the stone
pavement outside Lincoln's Inn Hall, but that the ticket-porters, who have nothing to do
beyond sitting in the shade there, with their white aprons over their heads to keep the
flies off, grub it up and eat it thoughtfully.
There is only one judge in town. Even he only comes twice a week to sit in chambers. If
the country folks of those assize towns on his circuit could see him now! No full-
bottomed wig, no red petticoats, no fur, no javelin-men, no white wands. Merely a close-
shaved gentleman in white trousers and a white hat, with sea- bronze on the judicial
countenance, and a strip of bark peeled by the solar rays from the judicial nose, who
calls in at the shell- fish shop as he comes along and drinks iced ginger-beer!
The bar of England is scattered over the face of the earth. How England can get on
through four long summer months without its bar --which is its acknowledged refuge in
adversity and its only legitimate triumph in prosperity--is beside the question; assuredly
that shield and buckler of Britannia are not in present wear. The learned gentleman who
is always so tremendously indignant at the unprecedented outrage committed on the
feelings of his client by the opposite party that he never seems likely to recover it is
doing infinitely better than might be expected in Switzerland. The learned gentleman
who does the withering business and who blights all opponents with his gloomy
sarcasm is as merry as a grig at a French watering-place. The learned gentleman who
weeps by the pint on the smallest provocation has not shed a tear these six weeks. The
very learned gentleman who has cooled the natural heat of his gingery complexion in
pools and fountains of law until he has become great in knotty arguments for term-time,
when he poses the drowsy bench with legal "chaff," inexplicable to the uninitiated and to
most of the initiated too, is roaming, with a characteristic delight in aridity and dust,
about Constantinople. Other dispersed fragments of the same great palladium are to be
found on the canals of Venice, at the second cataract of the Nile, in the baths of
Germany, and sprinkled on the sea-sand all over the English coast. Scarcely one is to
be encountered in the deserted region of Chancery Lane. If such a lonely member of
 
 
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